Municipalities of Denmark

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Denmark is divided into five regions, which contain 98 municipalities (Danish: kommuner, sing.: kommune). This structure was established per an administrative reform (Danish, Strukturreformen), effective Monday 1 January 2007 which replaced the counties (amter) with five regions (regioner). The 270 municipalities were consolidated into 98 larger units, most of which have at least 20,000 inhabitants. The reason was to give the new municipalities greater financial and professional sustainability. Many of the responsibilities of the former counties were taken over by the enlarged municipalities. 32 of the former municipalities did not merge into larger units, either because they already had merged (2 newly created municipalities:Bornholm and Ærø) or had a population larger than 20,000 or because they signed a cooperation agreement with a larger municipality.

Presented in a report put forward as a proposal by the government in April 2004, a political majority behind the reform was reached 24 June 2004. The then 271 municipalities and 13 counties were all part of the reform, with Ærø Municipality being allowed by the government to be formed already Sunday 1 January 2006 after a referendum on the island had decided to merge the two municipalities on the island to form one municipality. Three sui generis municipalities who were also counties lost their county privileges and became part of Region Hovedstaden, although one of these three municipalities, Bornholm, because of its remote location 150 km (93 mi) southeast of Copenhagen retains some regional functions and is thus called a Regional Municipality - it performs some tasks that are only done by the regions in the rest of Denmark.

The archipelago of Ertholmene is not part of any municipality, but is administered by the Ministry of Defence.

The existing coat of arms of the municipalities.

The average land area of a Danish municipality is 432.59 km2, 167.08 square miles.

Legal foundation of municipalities[edit]

The Constitution of Denmark states: "Article 82. The right of municipalities to manage their own affairs independently, under State supervision, shall be laid down by statute."[1]

Councillors[edit]

2,522 municipal councillors (and 205 regional councillors) were elected on Tuesday 15 November 2005 being the first councils elected since the new reform. The number of councillors was reduced to 2,468 in the 2009 elections and to 2,444 in 2013. In 1997 there were 4,685 municipal and 374 county councillors in the then 275 municipalities and 14 counties. As an example of the reduction in the number of councillors, Bornholm then had a total of 122 councillors in five municipalities and one county (15 county councillors). After the merger on 1 January 2003, of the five municipalities and the county, there was one single municipal council with 27 municipal councillors. After 1 January 2007, when Bornholm Regional Municipality lost its (short-lived;4 years 2003 until 2006) county privileges, there is talk of a reduction to 19 municipal councillors, the guidelines for a municipality with over 20,000 inhabitants being a maximum of 31 and minimum of 19 municipal councillors and the guidelines for a municipality with less than 20,000 inhabitants being a maximum of 31 and minimum of 9 municipal councillors. These guidelines replaced the old guidelines with the council elections in 2005 after the laws initiating the structural reform were passed in parliament. Many newly formed municipalities have chosen to have a maximum number of councillors so that all parts of the new municipalities and the small political parties have a chance of representation in the new councils; Copenhagen Municipality has 55 municipal councillors, and populous municipalities such as Århus and Aalborg have 31 each, and Odense has 29.

Council elections are held on the third Tuesday of November every four years. The previous were held on 19 November 2013 and the next are due to be held on 21 November 2017.

The newly formed 5 regional and 66 municipal councils acted as transitional merger committees (sammenlægningsudvalg) in 2006 with the responsibility of arranging the mergers of the old counties and municipalities into 5 and 66 new entities respectively. The 238 municipal councils and 13 county councils that were to be merged and replaced/abolished just continued their work one extra year beyond the fixed four-year term of office they were elected for (2002–2005) until 2006, and then ceased to exist. 32 municipalities including those of the recently formed Ærø Municipality (which was included in the reform) and Bornholm Regional Municipality (which was not merged as a result of the reform, merger decided locally by voters already May 2001 and made effective from 1 January 2003) remained unchanged and were not merged with other municipalities.

History[edit]

Municipalities distributed according to number of inhabitants
Inhabitants Number of municipalities
Before
1 April 1970
From
1 April 1974
From
1 January 2007
> 150 000 1 4 4
100 000–150 000 3 1 2
40 000–100 000 10 18 50
20 000–40 000 22 25 35
15 000–20 000 13 24 0
10 000–15 000 22 41 3
3 000–10 000 206 160 3
< 3 000 821 2 1
Total 1 098 275 98

Copenhagen County was not included in the municipal reform of 1 April 1970. Not until 1 April 1974, when Sengeløse municipality merged with Høje-Taastrup Municipality, and Store Magleby parish merged with Dragør parish to form the new Dragør Municipality, was Copenhagen County part of the municipal reform, though the county oddly enough never has included Copenhagen Municipality (or Frederiksberg Municipality), but only made use of its name. This is probably because the capital municipality was extremely populous. The voters of Sengeløse - which was created a municipality 1 April 1970 but only existed until 31 March 1974, being deemed too small in population - and Store Magleby parish were almost exclusively owner-occupiers, who voted center-rightwing in elections for the municipal council, whereas Høje-Taastrup Municipality and Dragør parish consisted of mainly tenants who rented their apartments and who voted center-leftwing, so heated debates took place before the mergers, because the center-rightwing voters in the merged municipalities would be in minority at the elections. Thus the number of municipalities was 277 from 1 April 1970 to 1 April 1974, from that date dropping to 275. This is almost never mentioned, instead only the remarks "since 1970 there was a reduction to 275 municipalities in Denmark" being mentioned[where?], which is obviously not factually precise, since the (date and) year should be (1 April) 1974, exactly four (4) years later. Still, the reform is called "The municipal reform of 1970", because the decisive changes happened 1 April 1970, when 1098 municipalities were reduced to 277. Also on 1 April 1974, Avedøre, which was part of Glostrup Municipality, was conjoined with Hvidovre Municipality. This combination was logical, as Avedøre bordered Hvidovre, but was separated from Glostrup. The reform was initiated from 1958 by the Interior Minister Søren Olesen, (1891-1973), a member of the Justice Party of Denmark, and mostly during the 1960s, the number of municipalities was reduced voluntarily from its maximum number of 1345 (with more than 13,000 councillors) - of which 1257 parish municipalities (800 of which had no staff employed except the mayor and treasurer (Danish kæmner), both employed part-time)[2] and 88, including Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, market city municipalities - in 1965 to the 1098 municipalities (with more than 11,000 councillors) being merged 1 April 1970 to form 277 municipalities.

The 275 municipalities existed from 1 April 1974 until 31 December 2002, when the five municipalities on Bornholm merged with the county to form Bornholm regional municipality, in the process abolishing the county and thereby reducing the number of counties to 13. This brought the number of municipalities down to 271 from 1 January 2003. Marstal municipality and Ærøskøbing municipality, both on the island of Ærø, were allowed by the Danish government to merge from 1 January 2006 to form Ærø municipality, thus bringing the number of municipalities down to 270 that were finally reduced by mergers from 1 January 2007 to form 98 municipalities. This merger was part of the 2007 municipal reform, decided in a final agreement after the national election of 2005, and thus it is sometimes mentioned (by politicians[who?]) that "271 municipalities merged from 1 January 2007 to form 98 municipalities", which is obviously wrong.

A parliamentary majority (elected in 2001) backing the reform was secured already 24 June 2004 when the Danish People's Party (then 22 seats) said it would support an agreement with the government coalition of Venstre (then 56 seats) and the Conservative People's Party (then 16 seats), thus securing 94 seats (90 needed for a majority in the 179 seat Folketing). The final agreement from 2005 included more parties.

Until 1978 the fiscal year from 1 April to 31 March was in use in the public sector since a law was passed in 1849. As a consequence of a law passed by the Folketing in 1976, from 1 January 1979 the fiscal year is concurrent with the calendar year. Many reforms and laws passed prior to 1979 therefore have effect from 1 April.

Municipal Reform of 2007[edit]

The Municipal Reform of 2007 is the name given to the agreement of merging many municipalities, as well as replacing the 13 counties with five regions, which was ratified by the parties Venstre, Conservative People's Party, Danish People's Party, Social Democratic Party and Det Radikale Venstre on 16 June 2005 effective as of 1 January 2007. The reform replaced the structure of municipalities and counties introduced with the reform of 1970.

Since the counties weren't the only structure based on the municipal layout of Denmark, other related changes were necessary as well. Thus, police districts (reduced from 54 to 12), court districts (reduced from 82 to 24), and electoral wards also needed to be updated after the municipal reform.

List of municipalities[edit]

Map showing the post-2007 municipalities of Denmark.

1970–2006[edit]

Until 31 December 2006 Denmark was divided into 13 counties, and 270 municipalities.

References[edit]

  • (Danish) Erik Harder: Dansk kommunestyre i grundtræk. 4. udgave. København 1985. Forlaget Kommuneinformation. ISBN 87-7316-211-6. Number of municipalities through the times, etc.
  • (Danish) Ove Hansen: Sådan styres kommunen. 1. udgave. 1. oplag. 1978. AOF's Forlag og Forlaget Fremad. ISBN 87-7403-131-7. Number of councillors, etc.

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]