Charlotte Adan: “The Kyiv agglomeration de facto already exists, it just works very inefficiently”. Interview

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The Council of Europe conducted a peer review on  governance in metropolitan areas focusing on Kyiv Region.. The former high-ranking British local government official came to present the results of the peer review to the Ukrainian capital.

By Dmytro Synyak https://storage.decentralization.gov.ua/uploads/ckeditor/pictures/3716/content_synyak.png


In 2017, the Kyiv City Council decided to initiate the creation of a local government association “Kyiv Agglomeration”, sending invitations to six cities of oblast significance, as well as to 33 villages and settlements of the Kyiv Oblast. However, at that time only 3 cities of oblast significance and 4 villages and settlements responded positively to the invitation. Therefore, the association failed to be created.

In order to get the process of the Kyiv agglomeration formation rolling, the Association of Ukrainian Cities and the Kyiv City State Administration appealed to the Council of Europe for assistance late last year. And it soon conducted a peer review that resulted in a detailed report on “Democratic governance in metropolitan areas, focusing on Kyiv Region”. Charlotte Adan, Owner and Director of Charlie Adan Executive Ltd research organisation, as well as Chair of the Fighting Fraud Locally Board at the UK's Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, came to present this report in Kyiv.

This experet’s life story needs a special attention. She started as a lawyer in the mayor’s offices of different cities, from 2011 to 2016 she chaired the district councils of the British districts of Babergh and Mid Suffolk, which had £102 million in own revenues alone. And from 2016 to 2018, Ms. Adan  already chaired the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, which, together with its 180,000 residents, is part of London. At that time, Charlotte Adan was in charge of 1,200 subordinates, and oversaw the effective use of £130 million of own revenues and £116 million of capital expenditures per year.

Decentralisation.gov.ua managed to speak with a former senior official and now a Council of Europe expert.

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What would you do first of all if you were given all the authority and resources to create the Kyiv agglomeration?

- Oh, for me this position would be a very serious challenge, because I do not understand the legal foundations of local self-government in Ukraine deep enough, nor do I know the historical context in which they were formed. I understand that in Ukraine everything is changing all the time, so it is important for people to understand what systems and structures should be formed now.

Yet let's return to the Kyiv agglomeration. Where would you start if you could create it?

- I would make a statement urging everyone concerned to go from word to case. Next, I would ask all the potential agglomeration participants: what do you need from it and why do you need it? If it is unnecessary, we should speak frankly about it, but I think that such an answer can only be caused by weak awareness. After all, Kyiv City a priori is needed by neighboring communities that will not be able to live without it, as Kyiv City  will not be able to perform well without them. I would also ask everyone to answer the question whether the residents of those communities surrounding the Ukrainian capital will benefit from the agglomeration.

 

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Kyiv agglomeration from space. Photo by CSI

The term "agglomeration" is ambiguous. Not all participants in the dialogue seem to understand it equally.

- And this, too, is a big problem. This term may refer to communities’ amalgamation by economic interests, amalgamation under common governance, amalgamation within some common boundaries. So, first of all, we need to come to a common definition of agglomeration. Only in understanding the common path can we build cooperation. You know, in the UK, the economic crisis of 2008 made communities truly cooperate.

What was the reason for the London agglomeration formation?

- We talked a lot about interdependence. For example, the population of London's agglomeration, the so-called Greater London, is about 10 million people. Moreover, it comprises over 30 small municipalities with a population of about 250 thousand inhabitants. And, for example, there are only about 1000 people living in the City of London, instead the City gives a record share of UK’s GDP. I don't know what will happen after Brexit, but now London is a fast growing city. There is about the same picture in Kyiv.

What do nearby cities, settlements and villages give to London?

- First of all, they give areas for construction of so-called social, i.e. affordable housing. The UK has very strict laws in place, and they strictly limit the rights of developers.

But to solve London’s waste problems no agglomeration is needed – just a few communities are enough.

- No. The UK has a very different construction planning system. The Mayor of London cannot allocate a site for a landfill or even for a building without consulting the local self-government leaders of nearby settlements. On the other hand, all local government leaders in the UK are legally bound to do exclusively what will lead the community to economic growth, environmental situation improvement, social tension reduction, etc.

 

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In your report, you mentioned that there are three types of urban agglomerations in Europe, conditionally referred to as Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels ones. Which one is most appropriate for Kyiv?

- It is up to the Kyiv residents and residents of nearby cities, settlements and villages to decide. I want to emphasise: de facto the Kyiv agglomeration already exists, it simply works very inefficiently. Therefore, Kyiv must address structural issues and initiate a culture of cooperation by developing certain mechanisms of dialogue and discussion. This is a prerequisite for creating a strong agglomeration.

What surprised you the most about Ukrainian local government?

- The fact that its employees apply 80% of their efforts to resolve purely technical issues and very little effort to resolve real cases. Another thing that surprised me was that everyone was lobbying for their own interests, not trying to come to a decision that suited everyone. At the same time, they work hard trying to solve very difficult issues and do not see at all that the same issues can be easily solved by working together.

Should the state force communities to cooperate?

- Coercive cooperation cannot last long. Fruitful cooperation is only possible when it is beneficial to all.


The full version of the report will soon be available on the website of the Council of Europe Program “Decentralisation and Local Government Reform in Ukraine” and in the Library of our portal.

The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE

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