Strong local governments are essential for the functioning of a strong state because only then is it possible to clearly define which responsibilities are assigned to the right place, the (Fidesz) mayor of Székesfehérvár, in central Hungary, said on Thursday. András Cser-Palkovics told a conference of the MÖSZ alliance of local governments that many problems must be resolved locally, and the current cycle would likely turn into a period of lengthy crisis management until 2024. Local governments must take action and cannot expect solutions from elsewhere, he said. A new approach is needed, with larger cities thinking in terms of their agglomerations, too, he added.
He said that in the period of crisis, local council services must be divided in two groups. One includes services that must be maintained under all circumstances, such as kindergarten, social institutions, GPs, communal catering and, to a certain extent, public transport and lighting, he said. In the other group of services, changes must be introduced if no external support is received, such as the winter operation of theatres, sports halls and swimming pools, he added. Cser-Palkovics said it was crucial that European Union funding is received as soon as possible.
Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, co-leader of MÖSZ, said that in the past, the regulated utility fees in Hungary had been higher than global market prices and therefore the government scheme to cap them was a chimera. Currently local governments have little room for manoeuvre on the energy front because most demand for energy comes from public services that must operate as critical infrastructure, he said. “Let me tell you, the metropolitan council will not close down anything,” he said. MÖSZ leader and mayor of Gödöllő György Gémesi said that “it’s important that dialogue should be pursued between government and local councils to enable survival.”