Molenwaard Nearby – providing municipal services without a town hall

The former municipality of Molenwaard was the Netherlands’ first local council to operate without a town hall. This innovation came about when three local authorities merged together into one municipality. Despite becoming a much larger municipality they still wanted to stay close to the community. They decided to no longer have a service desk in the traditional sense of the concept. Instead, the local authority goes out into the community and is, therefore, always nearby.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

An average-size municipality of just under 30,000 inhabitants in the western part of the Netherlands, Molenwaard was created on 1 January 2013 through the merger of the Graafstroom, Liesveld, and Nieuw-Lekkerland municipalities. Prior to this date, these three local authorities had already merged all their administrative operations and started to think about what would ultimately become the Molenwaard Nearby concept. They looked into how the three local authorities could harmonize their policy and processes, as well as how they, despite becoming a much larger municipality, could still stay close to the community. The accommodation was also an issue they discussed, as they had to decide where to build the new Molenwaard town hall. They put together a business case that showed that a new town hall would cost Molenwaard around fifteen million euros, while each municipality had only set aside one million euros for a new town hall. Aside from that, it was the height of the recent economic crisis and it was simply not a sensible move to spend so much taxpayer money. It was in this context that the following question emerged: ‘What exactly do we need a town hall for?’ This is what set the ball rolling. The funds the three municipalities had reserved were spent on implementing the Molenwaard Nearby concept, which marked the start of the great rethink.

The municipality operates based on the idea that any place is suitable as a workplace for civil servants, given that their workplaces are hosted in a Virtual Office that can be accessed at home or at one of the existing village halls, local clubs, or even cafés in one of the municipality's thirteen villages or at one of the buildings where the local authority rents office space. For personal dealings with citizens, the local authority basically goes out to where citizens or businesses are. They are mobile, digital, and nearby.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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Year: 2013
Level of government: Local government

Status:

  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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