Bringing the villages into the fold

10.05.2022 - 12:03
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Elsa María Guðlaugs Drífudót - RUV
There are many different issues on voters’ minds leading up to the 14th May local elections, and the issues vary by municipality. RÚV English will investigate a few different issues, in a few different municipalities.

Today, we look at Ísafjarðarbær, where the list leaders standing for election agree rural development is still high on the agenda, even 26 years after five municipalities, including the villages of Flateyri, Suðureyri, and Þingeyri, joined Ísafjörður in a much-enlarged single municipality. 

The local advisory councils in each community should be given more powers so that villages have a louder voice, the lead candidates from the four lists standing in Ísafjarðarbær agree. 

Pétur Óli Þorvaldsson, the lead candidate for Píratar (the Pirates) wants to significantly boost the power of the local councils in each community, saying that issues specifically concerning Þingeyri, for example, are best taken in Þingeyri and not in Ísafjörður. His party believes too many decisions are taken from the point of view of the largest town in the municipality, and sometimes at the expense of the villages. He would also like to see more services and amenities move to the villages and for Ísafjörður to not always be the assumed go-to location for new things in the municipality. 

Better connections needed 

The establishment of community councils was supposed to ensure the voices of each community were heard, but that has not worked out so far, according to Gylfi Ólafsson, the lead candidate for Í-listinn (the Í List). As a result, ‘home rule’ is under investigation for the various communities that would have much more power in certain areas. Public transport in Ísafjarðarbær is also far from satisfactory and needs to be improved; not least to give children and teenagers in the smaller communities access to all the sports and extracurricular activities and facilities they need. Í-listinn wants all the existing primary schools in the villages to remain operational at least for the next four-year council term. 

More power to villages could mean more trust 

It is 26 years since the creation of Ísafjarðarbær and Kristján Þór Kristjánsson, lead candidate for Framsóknarflokkurinn (the Progressive Party), says it is strange how the municipality has developed since the creation of its local councils which, until now, have mostly come with ideas and proposals. More powerful councils with decision-making powers in some areas could serve to increase transparency and trust within the municipality. 

More local council, without home rule 

Jóhann Birkir Helgason, for Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (the Independence Party), says the merger 26 years ago did not succeed well enough and says he is not against the idea of ‘home rule’ on certain issues, but says he would rather wait and see how that system works in Múlaþing, which implemented it last autumn. In the meantime, Ísafjarðarbær should empower its existing community councils. He does not agree that the villages totally lack important infrastructure, and says there are various potential pitfalls associated with moving some existing services out of Ísafjörður. 

For more information on the local elections this May, see the Multicultural Information Centre’s dedicated election page, here. Information from the government is here. And you can find out whether, and where, you can vote by entering your kennitala here. RÚV English will compile all Election 2022 news on this page

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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV