Municipal representatives ask for a metropolitan governance to address key challenges such as housing or mobility

What governance do we want for the metropolitan region of the future?

The challenges of contemporary cities can only be solved on a metropolitan scale, said Jordi Martí, sixth deputy mayor of Barcelona City Council. In the words of Josep Maria Vallès, president of the Fundació Catalunya Europa, “when the urban reality of metropolitan Barcelona has been considered in all its dimensions, the city has progressed. When not, it has receded or stagnated. "

To reflect on the future of metropolitan governance, the Fundació Catalunya Europa and the Barcelona Metropolitan Strategic Plan (PEMB), together with the Club of Rome, have organized a session with mayors of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region, representatives of various European metropolises and representatives of the territory, within the framework of the “Multilevel Metropolis” cycle.

With a focus on the metropolitan area and the metropolitan region - what Pasqual Maragall called the large area and the small area - Oriol Nel·lo explained that it is not true that this area of ??the territory tends to swallow population, activity and resources to the detriment of the territory. In fact, explained Nel·lo, "the metropolitan area came to bring together half of the population of Catalonia, while today all adjustments bring together 40% of the Catalan population." Population aside, however, the truth is that there is an increasingly marked trend of segregation by social classes. This fact causes "entire municipalities tend to specialize in one type of population, with the paradox that those who have less and, therefore, require more services, will end up in those municipalities with less tax base," said Nel · Lo. In fact, 96% of the population of the metropolitan region resides in municipalities below the average tax revenue. The data show that the problem can only be solved from a metropolitan perspective. It is therefore necessary a metropolitan plan for the comprehensive rehabilitation of neighborhoods and fiscal equalization mechanisms between municipalities in each urban area and the metropolitan area, defended Oriol Nel·lo.

In addition to territorial cohesion, Oriol Nel·lo also listed some of the challenges that a metropolitan response should find, including housing and access, energy transition and climate change; mobility, land use and economic strategy. Only in this way will it be possible to achieve greater social cohesion and territorial equity at the metropolitan level, as well as making policies for the right to housing viable or improving efficiency in the management of networks.

Mayors of the metropolitan region face the debate aware that it is a reality that must be addressed but with a certain "skepticism". Josep Mayoral, mayor of Granollers, defended that "the metropolitan area has not been approached correctly". For Mayoral, "shared strategies are needed, where horizontality prevails and there are no first and second class municipalities". Laia Bonet, third deputy mayor of Agenda 2030, digital transition, sports, territorial and metropolitan coordination of Barcelona City Council was also committed to shared and multilevel governance, which makes use of local tools that already exist, but that they have greater effective potential, in addition to introducing more flexible formulas compared to existing ones.

The mayor of Sabadell, Marta Farrés, was also in favor of proposing metropolitan governance, as long as there was a previous debate on the distribution of resources, the distribution of power and the treatment of the councils of the metropolitan area. In the same vein, Pere Regull, mayor of Vilafranca del Penedès, lamented discrimination against the territory compared to Barcelona. Regull was in favor of the Generalitat initiating and leading the debate. "We must not see the Generalitat as a counterpower, but as another metropolitan actor," claimed Regull. In fact, the demand for a more active role of the Catalan government spread among the political representatives. Among them, Josep Mayoral, who demanded a network of joint work between municipalities and the Government.

Returning to the Barcelona metropolis, Marc Martí-Costa, head of the Governance and Public Policy Area of ??the IERMB, explained that a study by this entity, together with the PEMB, had mapped up to 115 municipal cooperation instruments. However, these mechanisms did not respond to the challenge of metropolitanization because they do not meet the challenges posed by metropolitan visions. Therefore, simple coordination between municipalities is not enough to deal with it. From the field of health, Roser Fernández, general director of the Catalan Union of Hospitals, defended territorial structures at the service of the people, which obeyed the optimization of the institutions in order to give a better service to the people. . Fernández encouraged people to ask themselves why new administrative levels are being created. In addition, the director of the UCH advocated more flexibility in the mechanisms of public-private collaboration and greater coordination between health services and social services.

Finally, Joan Ridao, professor of Constitutional Law at the UB and director of the Institute for Self-Government Studies, argued that improving cooperation involves institutionalizing existing mechanisms at the metropolitan level and, therefore, their governance. "Even now there is a need to overcome suspicion and mistrust between the great metropolis and the municipalities," said Ridao. And he defended "the local regime and territorial organization must be part of the political agenda again, it is urgent that the possibility of creating its own territorial constituencies be put back on the table," said the director of the IEA.

To finish

Currently, there is a consensus on the feasibility and opportunity of proposing metropolitan governance, especially in 3 areas:

  • Mobility
  • Housing
  • Social rights

From a pragmatic point of view, Mariona Tomàs, Serra Hunter Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Barcelona, ??and curator of the Barcelona Demà process of the PEMB, proposed starting to work on these policies from the metropolitan area.

On the other hand, at European level there is a wave of metropolitan reforms. In Catalonia, this metropolitan rethinking should go through new mechanisms that guarantee a territorial rebalancing.