Who can become the member of the Association of local and regional governments? Practically, there are several solutions to this problem. Members of such associations could be individuals with or without restrictions (it could be declared that members can be only leaders, only deputies and officials of the local government, etc.). Members could be only legal entities – local governments. Also, there is a mixed (individuals and legal entities) solution to the problem – depending on the intended goal of an association.

 

In many countries, there are Associations of the Officials (mayor, mayor and council chairman, executive directors, etc.). In all those cases, officials make their own decision about joining, and they represent only themselves – either as politicians or experts. If the main goal of such association is the exchange of experiences and the improvement of service quality, then this is the desired form. Such association should not have full rights to represent legal entities (local or regional authority), because authorities usually consist of several organs that are not fully represented in such association. The Association of the Officials may lose the meaning after elections, because newly elected or appointed officials may decide not to join it.

 

The LALRG has chosen the simplest ant the most persistent version – members of the Association can be only local governments as legal entities. There is no individual between members. Elections of boards do not affect stability of the Association. In order to leave or to join, the decree from the board is needed. Without the decree from the board local government is represented by chairman. In the LALRG meetings where no voting is needed, local government can be represented by any employee. If the voting rights (Congress, Council, Executive Board, Standing Committee) are given to some one else, it has to be approved by ruling institution. Following the directions given in the law “About Local Governments”, it is the board of local government.

 

In the practicalities of the LALRG, the following views have emerged:

  • In political decision making, the maximum of politicians has to be involved.
  • In the issues involving enhancing services of local governments, the widest range of specialists that work at the local governments has to be involved.
  • In circumstances, when not all local and regional governments have joined the association, they still have to be involved even as non-members, in order to create conditions for mutual trust and possible engagement in the future.

 

The system of membership that was chosen by the LALRG is very successful, because the basic purpose of the LALRG is to represent common interests of the members and to shape the common policy.

 

From the beginning of the Founding Congress, another question has been raised – should the participation in LALRG be voluntary or should it be statutory mandatory.

 

At the beginning, the idea of mandatory participation seems sympathetic. It would resolve the problem of the engagement of members and membership fees. Presentation of common view would be mandatory. Such proposal has been made more than once from the Centralized Powers, and each time, after internal discussions in LALRG, the proposal has been denied. Members of LALRG fear that an organization centralized by the law would be weak. Also, there are concerns that such organization would become the “long hand” of the State Administration.

 

Local and regional governments are the object of the competition between political movements. The governing coalition might get tempted to use the LALRG as the bases for influence. There is a conflict amid the issue of local power (territorial community), long term interests, and short term efforts of political movements that want to secure their dominance. Local and regional governments showed the trust in pluralism and local democracy by denying the proposal to convert the LALRG into “pocket organization” of the State Administration.

 

The mechanics of “long hand” work this way: the State Administration might punish rebellious Association, for example, statutory reducing the membership fee, influencing the work conditions of the management of the Association, and in many other ways. Under such circumstances, the Association might be tempted to become obedient, which would mean negligence of the interests of members. Therefore, the LALRG has a voluntary principle. It means that any council of the local governments can decide to leave the LALRG in any session. It would show that the local government is not approving policies of the LALRG, and that it has the impression that the Association no longer defends common interests.

 

Of course, the decision of withdrawal of any local government in any case is a serious signal and food for thought to the Association. Usually, in such cases, the management of the LALRG starts a discussion; and it tries to meet with deputies of a specific local government, in order to understand the motivation for a withdrawal. In many cases, it is discovered that, before the decision making, deputies have not been well informed. It is necessary to rethink the work of the LALRG, because more than only miscommunication mistakes might be made.

 

Because of such policy, number of members of the LALRG has been systematically increasing between years 1992 and 2008.

 

Number of LALRG members

(as fixed in reports of mandates commission in LALRG Congresses)

 

 

Year

LALRG members

1992

157

1994

272

1997

271

2000

497

2003

502

2006

526

2009

118*

 

*novadi (administrative division – amalgamated municipalities) and new cities are the legatees of rights and liabilities of former local and regional governments; therefore they automatically become members of the LALRG if at least one of the former provinces or towns has been a member. It does not exclude the possibility of withdrawal from the LALRG.

 

In 2009, the local and regional government elections were held in new territories. Novadi (amalgamated municipalities) have a guarantee to the continuous representation after elections. But in the new administrative division, the LALRG has to prove that the Association is needed, and that it works to represent common interests of members.  

 

It has to be noted, that each year some of local governments were willing to withdraw, but in most cases the opinion had been changed.

 

Also, it has proved that the State Administration might try to punish rebellious Association. In 1996, during Andris Šķēle Cabinet, the LALRG refused to sign the protocol of agreement and disagreement that would worsen financial conditions of local and regional governments if compared with the pre-existing agreement of the same year. Prime Minister summoned his counselors and ordered to reduce the finances from the state. But it could not be done, because the Association receives funds from voluntary membership fees, not from the state budget.