The decentralization process, which started in 2014, has already had a profound impact on Ukraine and its citizens.
In order to take advantage of these sweeping reforms, five village councils and Bakhmut City Council in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine are currently working to establish an amalgamated territorial community (ATC). ATCs allow local authorities to have access to more resources and the ability to administer their own local service delivery.
When ATCs are created, they can receive greater access to national tax revenues and are eligible to receive state transfers for local infrastructure renovation. Local authorities in ATCs have greater control over local fees and charges, local service delivery and the use of land in their communities.
According to the official Decentralization Reforms website, 874 ATCs have been established. Those ATCs are composed of approximately 4,004 former local councils covering more than 9.1 million Ukrainians.
In 2018, five Donbas village councils and Bakhmut city council began to work together to unite in an ATC, with Bakhmut city as their center. This would allow them to take advantage of these decentralization reforms.
Leading up to the creation of the ATC, citizens had insufficient knowledge on the legislative processes and procedures involved. As a result, community members asked for consultations on the amalgamation process from the Center for Local Self-Government Development and the Donetsk Oblast Administration. However, community members were still unable to find answers to questions about specific procedures of local council reorganizations.
To help community leaders message the decentralization process more effectively, IRI organized a seminar in Sloviansk for local government officials from the Donbas region, including officials from the Sloviansk City Council, Bakhmut City Council and Andriivska ATC village council. The seminar included discussions on decentralization reforms that involved information on constitutional reform and decentralization, changes to the law on local self-government, taxes and budget reforms. After this seminar, Bakhmut city councilmembers asked IRI to conduct a special seminar in Bakhmut, dedicated to the process of amalgamation. In response, IRI conducted a seminar discussing the reorganization of village councils and the structure of an amalgamated community in more detail.
When the five Donbas village councils and Bakhmut city council amalgamate, it will become the eleventh amalgamated community in Donetsk oblast. As such, local authorities in these communities would have access to more national tax revenues and would be eligible to receive state transfers for local infrastructure renovation, with greater control over local fees. As for the residents of these communities, amalgamation would give them more tools to solve local issues of concern, such as road repair, street lighting, reconstruction and procurement of hospital equipment, and the opportunity to participate in the management of the local budget.
Giving more power to local governments ensures that decisions are made closer to citizens, communities and businesses they affect. It is important to give greater freedom and flexibility at the local level, so local elected officials can improve public services for their area, making it a better place to live for Ukrainians.