ASSET (Action to Strengthen Small European Towns)
9. Phil Turner, Past President ECOVAST and Convenor of ECOVAST’s ASSET Project introduced the topic of urban and rural integration and co-operation - What are the policies for small towns in Europe, member states and regions?
Phil pointed to some recent examples, at European, national and sub-national levels, of attempts to address the policy gap which has been obvious for some years. Small towns are rarely featured in policies. Larger cities have policies to support them because they have the strongest economic opportunities, larger numbers of voters within their boundaries and more concentrated social problems.
10. Jörg Gehrmann, Mayor of Wittstock an der Dosse, Brandenburg spoke of the German National Programme for Small and Medium Sized Towns: an appreciation of that programme and its benefits from the point of view of the mayor of a participating town (i.e. bottom-up)
A sound economic structure, with business tax income, is essential for the future of the town and its surrounding settlements. In the global financial crisis the way forward is to keep the companies Wittstock has, rather than attract new ones and to plan for the longer term.
The municipality has a population 15,500, some 5,000 in the core town. A programme for urban development funding is important and there is a need for this to be linked to an integrated rural development strategy for the 25 villages and the urban settlements.
In 2005 the ‘middle centre status’ had been withdrawn from Wittstock and it now shares functions with other towns. This is having an impact on the services in his town and they are fighting hard to maintain them.
Governance is enhanced by joint working with neighbouring municipalities, notably Pritzwalk, pooling functions to improve delivery, without merging political entities or staffing. Retaining the identity of places is essential. Villages are linked to the ‘metropole’ or ‘mother town’ - “decentralised concentration”.