Dutch local governments are hybrids of “autonomy” and “co-government” forms. However, local autonomy is defined mostly negatively as pertaining to those tasks left to local discretion because they are not explicitly mentioned as national policy issues. Co-government is financially and materially constrained in quite some detail by ministerial grants. Increasingly, Dutch national government uses administrative and financial tools to steer and influence local policy-making. Examples include administrative agreements, covenants, performance agreements, monitoring and benchmarking. Some would go so far as to claim that, violating the European Charter for Local Government, the aggregate of all these tools has created a culture of quality control and accountability that paralyzes local governments. This is due in part to popular and political opinion that local policy-making, levels of local service delivery and local taxes ought to be equal everywhere in the (small) country.
As mentioned under Task Funding, Dutch local taxes, both as revenue (% of GDP) and as tax power, are internationally insignificant. The recent abolition of real estate taxes on the use of houses has decreased local tax powers even more.
Decentralization allowances, which increase the size of the so-called general fund for local government, have, nevertheless, been given on condition of department approval of local government plans. This clearly violates the principle that the general fund is given unconditionally.
Andeweg & Irwin, 1993, 162-3.
Hans Keman and Jaap Woldendorp (2010), ‘The Netherlands: Centralized - more than less!’, in: Jürgen Dieringer and Roland Sturm (hrsg.), Regional Governance in EU-Staaten, Verlag Barbara Budrich: 269-286.