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Decision-free municipality administration causes loophole in legal protection

Municipalities are increasingly attempting to solve problems without issuing decisions. A notification procedure (notification – investigation – application – decision) has recently been introduced that replaces part of the traditional application procedure. Ymre Schuurmans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, discusses this with Kars de Graaf from the University of Groningen in ‘Binnenlands Bestuur’.

Ambiguous legal status

The procedure involving a citizen submitting a claim and the municipality assessing that claim is no longer used within the social domain. This procedure has become more informal and now involves both parties coming to an agreement together without a procedure that would result in a decision being issued. However, without a decision, citizens are unable to take their case to the administrative court and the civil court has to provide relief instead. But, as Schuurmans and de Graaf explain to Binnenlands Bestuur, an independent journalistic platform, civil court proceedings involve high costs and can result in ambiguity over a citizen’s legal status.

Change in the Dutch General Administrative Law Act

Decision-free administration is a new form of governance. However, the authority of the administrative court does not properly align with that. The Administrative Law Association’s Commissie Verruiming Bevoegdheden Bestuursrechter (‘Committee on Broadening the Powers of Administrative Law Courts’) has concluded that, in order to safeguard access to the courts, its authority needs to be expanded and an application procedure introduced. This committee is co-chaired by Ymre Schuurmans and Kars de Graaf. Schuurmans explains: ‘We consider it important that the specialised administrative court is able to offer accessible, affordable, low-threshold legal protection against the government. That does require a change in the Dutch General Administrative Law Act.’

More information

Read the full article (in Dutch) in Binnenlands Bestuur

Photo: Van Tay Media through Unsplash

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