An analysis of the allocation of municipal subsidies in 2022 reveals that Antwerp and Ghent are the most significant beneficiaries, accounting for a third of the 5.1 billion euros disbursed to local authorities. This information was presented in the newspaper De Tijd, following an extensive study conducted by Flemish MP Brecht Warnez (CD&V).
Interestingly, the two major cities receive an amount equivalent to the subsidies granted to 244 often rural municipalities combined. These municipalities have a population four times greater than that of Antwerp and Ghent. The funding in question comprises money from the Municipal Fund, additional grants, and project subsidies.
Per capita, Antwerp and Ghent each receive slightly over 2,000 euros in subsidies from Flanders. This is almost triple the Flemish average of 763 euros. Other provincial capitals such as Hasselt, Leuven and Bruges receive between 900 to 1,000 euros per inhabitant. In contrast, the 244 least funded municipalities, which include Londerzeel, Nieuwerkerken, and Anzegem, get between 230 and 640 euros per inhabitant. Some municipalities like Sint-Martens-Latem or Brasschaat receive less Flemish money due to their wealthier residents and consequently stronger tax base.
In Warnez’s view, expressed in the newspaper, the current allocation is highly imbalanced. Despite being an alderman in Wingene, West Flanders, he believes that specific city problems do warrant subsidies. However, he also contends that smaller cities and rural municipalities are seriously underfunded. He asserts that these areas deserve greater financial support and respect.
On the contrary, Antwerp and Ghent maintain that the distribution of funds is fair. They argue that they grapple with larger challenges, such as poverty, homelessness, and refugees, while also providing numerous facilities for non-residents. Ghent’s Mayor Mathias De Clercq (Open VLD) suggests that many responsibilities have been transferred from supra-local levels to central cities over the years, without any financial compensation.
Flemish Minister of the Interior Gwendolyn Rutten (Open VLD) concedes that the current distribution system might not be optimal. She anticipates the completion of a study on the Municipal Fund in April. The outcomes of this study should help shape a reform in the next legislature.