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Activities

"2012"

2012 was dominated by two subjects – the budgetary determination of taxes and completing the concept for reforming public administration. While the compromise form of the amendment to the budgetary determination of taxes received the president’s signature, based on long-term Union requirements, it was not possible to complete the reform of public administration. The proposals submitted by the Ministry of the Interior were unacceptable to the Union. There were, however, a series of meetings on the subject of church restitutions, the operation and taxation of gambling, public procurement and financing regional education. There were very frequent discussions on the issue of the direct election of mayors, the so-called anti-corruption amendment to the Municipalities Act, questions about community service work and public services, the level of the waste disposal fee and many other subjects. There was also intensive preparation for drawing down funds from the European Union after 2014, i.e. in the new programming period. In total the Union commented on over two hundred legal standards and initiated dozens of interdepartmental meetings.

One of the first of the more important acts of the Union was a meeting with Prime Minister Petr Nečas on 18 January before a government meeting. Although this was a short encounter it still had both importance and media coverage. Union President Dan Jiránek presented to Petr Nečas a box full of scissors that mayors had sent to the Bureau of the Union as a symbol of the ever-growing divide between the state budget and local government budgets. There was criticism in particular of the transfer of more and more obligations from the state to municipalities without the corresponding financial support.

On 7 February Union President Dan Jiránek signed an agreement on cooperation with the Minister of Agriculture Petr Bendl. This agreement focuses primarily on financially strengthening rural areas in European subsidy programmes after 2013. This mutual cooperation between the Ministry and the Union however also covers the relationship between agriculture and the revitalisation of the countryside, forestry, the environment and its components in such a way that they take into account the needs of towns and municipalities, and so that both European and national subsidy instruments are effectively used. Interconnection between the activities of farmers and municipalities is essential for the beneficial development of rural areas.

February saw the commencement of the annual marathon of regional meetings, the aim of which is to obtain the opinions and suggestions of mayors on the legislation currently being discussed. The most important subjects in 2012 understandably included the amendment to the Budgetary Determination of Taxes Act – however, there was no consensus of opinion on the system of redistributing taxes. It must be said however that the majority of mayors were in favour of the Union’s position to support in particular municipalities and towns at the bottom of the tax curve to the detriment of the state and not the largest towns. Other hot topics included the contribution to the execution of the delegated powers of the community and the plan for reforming the financing of regional schools. The mayors also paid great attention to accounting and the compulsory analytical overview, drawing European subsidies in the new programming period and cooperation with local action groups. They sharply criticised the concept being prepared to complete the reform of public administration. There were also discussions on the amendment to the Public Contracts Act and the pointless obligation of municipalities to set up accounts at the Czech National Bank for the transfer of funds from shared taxes. There was great appreciation of a recent development from the regional meetings – practically focused afternoon seminars concentrating on the Municipalities Act that took place as part of the Smart Councillor project. A total of 1213 mayors attended the regional meetings.

On 16 February the Union organised a round table discussion on the state and the Church settling assets. Representatives of the Church, the Ministry of Culture, Parliament and understandably also representatives of the affected municipalities and towns all spoke on the issue. They spoke not only about restitution cases, but also about the future of the Church. The main issue however was how blocked municipalities will address the situation if the lawmakers do not approve the submitted proposal. No answer was found, however a series of additional negotiations followed. Finally, the law passed through the Chamber of Deputies, was rejected by the Senate and so was discussed again in the Chamber, which outvoted the Senate. The law thus became effective on 1 January 2013.''

On 20 February there was a public hearing at the Senate on financing regional education. The opinions of the Union were interpreted by Education Commission Chairwoman Marcela Štiková. She adamantly disapproved of Dobeš’s conceptual plan for reforming the financing regional education system and emphasised that the sole criterion for implementing it, the optimal number of pupils in a class, was absolutely unacceptable. Other speakers also condemned the reform plan, labelling it as insufficiently prepared, lacking thorough analysis of the impacts on the public and lacking an analysis of the changes to legal regulations and pilot testing. At the following meeting on 10 July the new Minister of Education Petr Fiala assured a representative of the Union that work on the original reform had been stopped.

There was another meeting with the government on 7 March, part of a regular series since an agreement dating back to 2006. Understandably the meeting focused on the current issues affecting local government at that time. One of the main subjects was therefore the budgetary determination of taxes. Representatives of the Union presented their requirement to flatten primarily the bottom of the tax curve, i.e. strengthening the income of municipalities with around one thousand to ten thousand inhabitants. There was also a discussion about the contribution to executing the delegated community powers, regional education, preparing for the new programming period, the amendment to the Municipalities Act, etc. Representatives of the Union emphatically warned against the public administration reform efforts of the government to restrict the delegated competence of type I and II municipalities.

On 13 March the issue of the direct election of mayors and the problematic points of the prepared “anti-corruption” amendment to the Municipalities Act were discussed in Parliament. Representatives of the Union informed the deputies of the Union’s position against direct election but rather strengthening the majority elements in the electoral system. The proposal to elect a mayor directly only in smaller municipalities where a council is not elected, was rejected as lacking cohesion and exhibiting a series of unresolved problems. They then labelled the planned amendment to the Municipalities Act as pro-bureaucratic rather than anti-corruption.

On 15 and 16 March there was a meeting between the executive boards of the Czech Union and the Association of Towns and Communities of Slovakia. On this occasion the Czechs accepted an invitation from the Slovaks and travelled to Štrbské pleso. The representatives of the two associations exchanged information about current issues that the local government in their respective countries were addressing, and then adopted a joint position in relation to activities abroad. They agreed on the need for the greater involvement of elected representatives in the activities of CEMR, for a requirement for specific outputs from this body for member associations, and for the regular exchange of information between delegations to the Council of the Regions.

On 19 April the Council of the Union met in Třeboň. It rejected the compulsory setting up of municipality accounts at the Czech National Bank, called on deputies to speed up the discussion on the amendment to the Budgetary Determination of Taxes Act, specifically to support the compromise option, asked the Ministry of Education to rework the draft reform of financing regional education, rejected the restrictions on delegated competence for lower-type municipalities, and recommended not introducing the direct election of mayors. It did however support simplifying the process for registering agendas used exclusively by local government as part of the basic registers, increasing the total amount of funds for fire protection units and adopting the law on Church restitution.

Just under two hundred mayors attended the Congress of Mayors in 2012, which was held in Brno on 26 April. The programme included two pivotal subjects – completing the reform of public administration, to which Ondřej Veselský, Deputy Minister of the Interior, accepted an invitation, and financing regional education. Although Deputy Minister of Education Ladislav Němec accepted the invitation he did not appear at the congress. More time was therefore dedicated to the reform of public administration. The participants made it clear to Deputy Minister Veselský that the proposed concept is unacceptable to the towns and municipalities. During a reform two aspects must be taken into account– the performance and accessibility of services. Those present once again also rejected the proposed reform of financing regional education.

On 5 June the Union President and the chairs of the Association for Rural Reconstruction, the Association of Local Authorities and the National Local Action Groups Network of the Czech Republic signed the Rural Areas Memorandum. A Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Senate Commission on Rural Development also added her signature. All the players thus demonstrated their efforts to ensure balanced and sustainable rural development particularly by increasing the funds for rural municipalities and an overall simplification of access to drawing European funds.

Internet gambling, its taxation, and social responsibility was discussed on 21 June at a round table organised by the Union at the Congress Centre. All those involved expected that the new government draft would regulate on-line gambling, however in the meantime it had started to spread further. Representatives of the Union, the Ministry of Finance and gambling operators agreed that the greatest problem was illegal gambling operators and that regulating them in the new legislation was in everyone’s interest. They also pointed out the need for greater targeting of income from various forms of gambling and confirmed the joint interest in mutual cooperation leading to the adoption of a new law.  

The concerns of mayors regarding European funds were the subject of a conference arranged by the Union in cooperation with the Senate on 22 June under the auspices of Vice-President of the European Parliament Oldřich Vlasák. There was a debate about the next programming period focussing on the position of Czech local government. The aim of the conference was to try to answer questions such as what the EU imagines under the terms ‘urban and territorial dimensions of the Cohesion Policy 2014’, what tools it is planning to use to support local government, whether it will address the real needs of Czech towns and municipalities, etc. Representatives of the Union also presented the long-awaited Needs of the Rural Countryside Analysis. All those present agreed on the need to direct sufficient financial resources to the defined needs of Czech towns and municipalities, to reduce the number of operational programmes, harmonise their conditions and primarily simplify administration when submitting projects.

On 11 September a public hearing was held in the Senate on the concept for completing the 2nd phase of public administration reform, which was presented by the Ministry of the Interior. According to this, 16 proposed measures should reduce the cost of public administration and improve its efficiency. The representatives of the Union led by Dan Jiránek spoke sharply against the Ministry’s proposal. Other participants also stated that the proposed concept must not be allowed to separate the performance of public administration from citizens. The contribution amount should be based on standardising the performance and every municipality should decide for itself whether it wants to perform it or not under the given conditions. As a priority, however, a concept for the optimum organisation of public administration must be prepared, an integral part of which must also be the reform of central public administration.

On 22 October representatives of the Union also directly discussed reform, primarily the planned cancellation of building offices and registry offices, with the Minister for Regional Development Kamil Jankovský. He reassured us that there was no reason for nationwide cancellation and that the offices must be approached on an individual basis. In his words, any steps must be preceded by a thorough analysis of the number of tasks performed and careful assessment. The meeting’s programme also included the issue of regulating the number of people in apartments and preparing to draw European Union funds in the future.

On 22 November another meeting was held with Czech Post CEO Petr Zatloukal. He confirmed that he took the agreement concluded with the Union very seriously. In 2012 Czech Post had not permanently closed a single branch without arranging with the municipality in question a change in the way the area would be served. The situation will be similar in the future. There was also discussion about resolving the situation of temporarily closed post offices, whether this was for staffing reasons, reconstruction of the building or the expiry of the rental contract. In the case of staffing reasons the CEO promised to hold a selection process by the end of March with the participation of municipality representatives.

On 23 November a session of the Union Council was held. In addition to the Union’s internal matters, it also discussed forming inter-municipal cooperation within the area of the administrative district of municipalities with extended competence. It agreed with creating special alliances of municipalities that in the next planning period would address the integrated development of the area using European subsidies. It then unanimously rejected the termination of the existence of municipalities with extended competence and reconfirmed that it would not support the direct election of mayors but rather a strengthening of the majority elements of the electoral system, discussed the issue of the amendment to the Municipalities Act being prepared, which, according to it, is definitely not in accordance with the anti-corruption strategy of the government and also public procurement, the Budgetary Responsibility Act, etc.

Do not take away our competences and do not curtail the performance of state administration in the municipalities – this was the clear message to state officials and the government from perhaps three hundred participants at the financial conference held on 29 and 30 November in Prague. In addition to reforming public administration, the main subjects of this last Union event in 2012 included preparing to draw European funds in the next programming period. The participants demanded primarily the simplification and improved efficiency of the system for administering operational programmes, the simplification of the procedures of steering and control bodies and ensuring the maximum compliance with applicants. The authorisation of gambling, public procurement, the public service, the amount of the contribution to executing delegated community powers and many other subjects were also spoken about at the conference

In addition to the vital work on national and European legislation (see the separate part of the annual report for more details) the Union also focused on support for partnerships between towns and municipalities, adopted and prepared programmes for a series of foreign delegations and also focused on media and promotional activities.

Once again this year Union members were regularly informed about all the Union’s activities via the website and the electronic newsletter and the printed Information Service monthly periodical always included a summary of the most important activities and notices.  

 
 

Calendar

15. December 2017

Seminář "Senioři v dluzích a exekucích"

Ostrava
9. January 2018 10:00-12:00

Předsednictvo Komory obcí

Praha, Kancelář Svazu
 
11. January 2018

Seminář "Obecné nařízení o ochraně osobních údajů neboli GDPR" v Brně

Brno
16. January 2018 09:30-11:30

Kontrolní výbor

Praha, Kancelář Svazu
 
22. January 2018 10:00-12:00

Předsednictvo Svazu

Brno, vila Tugendhat
 

Address

Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic 
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140 00 Prague 4
Czech Republic

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