At the end of 2021, after repeated questions from Groen, it became clear that the Mayor of Mel would like to set up a merger between Melle, Merelbeke, Oosterzele and Destelbergen, the four municipalities of the ‘Regio Rhode and Schelde’ police zone. At the municipal council of February 2022, the green light was given to start exploratory talks about this.
Tijl De Witte (Groen Melle): ‘We asked to clearly inform and involve the residents, but apart from one message about the start of those conversations, nothing came of it. Four months later, the Mellenaars still do not know whether those conversations have already taken place or what the result may be. Nor is there any way to ask for the opinion of the Mellenaars themselves, that is not a serious way of working!’
Fusion offers opportunities, but must be supported by the inhabitants
A merger of Melle with one or more neighboring municipalities entails a number of challenges, such as the development of accessible services in the various residential areas, the integration of the administration and management and certainly also attention to the neighborhood identity. It also offers opportunities, of course, because the board then has more clout and a stronger position in the region. In addition, a merger also offers opportunities to, for example, develop a district-oriented policy or to preserve even more green and open spaces.
Groen Melle: ‘We do think that such a merger really has a chance of success if the residents are sufficiently involved, and that naturally starts with providing clear and objective information. What does such a merger of municipalities entail? What advantages and disadvantages would this have for the inhabitants, the services, the administration of the municipality … etc.?’
The Mellenaars are of course also interested in knowing how the exploratory talks are going. Is Merelbeke mainly looked at as a possible merger partner or are there other municipalities that are also interested? Many questions that have not yet been answered.
Let residents participate in the decision-making process about the financial bonus
The Flemish government is trying to persuade municipalities to merge with a financial bonus of up to €500 in debt relief per inhabitant. A merger between, for example, Melle and Merelbeke would free up more than 18 million euros in financial space.
Groen Melle: ‘We find an objective argument – why a merger would be a good thing – much more important than the financial aspect. But since that bonus would be there anyway, it is logical for us that the residents can also put forward proposals on how that money should be spent as a matter of priority. High on our list of priorities are mobility with safe bicycle and pedestrian paths, services close to home and taking into account the needs and needs of all residents (young or slightly less) when running our municipality.
Increase the chance of a merger? Involve residents!
Groen Melle calls on the municipal council to involve the residents in the merger plans by giving them clear information and real participation.
Tijl De Witte: ‘If our municipality is really serious about these merger plans, then it is only logical that the people of Mellen can also say ‘their thoughts’ about it. If this is only decided above their heads or hidden away in a conference room, then there will be little support for this – and we don’t want to end up with a failed merger like Mechelen and Boortmeerbeek?’