Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Gert Jan Geertjes presents essay commemorating the 'Vereniging Drentse Gemeenten’ centenary

The jubilee conference for the centenary of the Vereniging van Drentse Gemeenten (the association of municipalities in the province of Drenthe) took place on 23 September. The conference focussed on the collaboration between the municipalities, the province and the water boards in Drenthe past, present, and future.

During the conference, Gert Jan Geertjes, Assistant Professor Constitutional and Administrative Law and fellow for the research of the Thorbecke Professor Local Government Geerten Boogaard, wrote an essay titled Interbestuurlijke samenwerking in Drenthe: het spel en de knikkers. The essay was written especially to commemorate the centenary and Geertjes interviewed seven administrators and two town clerks during the process. The starting point for the essay was the so-called ‘Drenthe administrative paradox’, that has been identified by researchers from Berenschot and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in a recently published report. The structure of the public administration in Drenthe, on the one hand, should be the perfect foundation for inter-administrative collaborations: the scale of 12 municipalities, 4 water boards, and 1 province is manageable and allows for easy contact between administrators. However, on the other hand, an administrative culture appears to have arisen in Drenthe that strongly focusses on maintaining good relations between administrators in Drenthe, resulting in sometimes less than ideal outcomes of that collaboration.

In his essay, Geertjes shows that that image requires some finetuning: apart from the culture and structure there is also the ‘Drenthe’ rulebook: 1) decisions must be made by consensus whenever possible; 2) during collaborations the municipalities, water boards, and province operate on an equal footing as much as possible; and 3) the decision process must not be rushed unduly. These ground rules are closely interwoven with the local culture in Drenthe, and they have become part of the structure of the interadministrative collaborations. Geertjes states that the strong foundation underlying the interadministrative collaborations in Drenthe is, in fact, the result of these ground rules. The key for improving the interadministrative collaborations, according to him, cannot be found in changing the game – the legal and local rules – but in changing the stakes – the priorities of the collaboration.

In the essay, Geertjes applies, to some extent, the theory of conventions he wrote about in his dissertation to a local context. Geertjes obtained his PhD on 2 September 2021 in Leiden. His dissertation is titled: Staatsrecht en conventie in Nederland en het Verenigd Koninkrijk (Law and Convention in the Constitutions of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). After his presentation in the plenary session, Geertjes discussed the most important findings of his PhD research with several participants during a break-out session. Both the plenary session as well as the break-out session resulted in interesting discussions on inter-administrative collaboration. These discussions are definitely grounds for further research. All in all, the meeting was a great success! The essay (in Dutch) can be found here.

This website uses cookies.  More information.