FAU students survey municipalities on local processes and structures
Overall, municipalities in Middle Franconia are happy with the quality of life for their citizens. With regard to their commercial potential, on the other hand, they see room for improvement. These are some of the findings of a research project involving students of the Social Economics Master’s degree programme at FAU.
Which factors are important for quality of life? What makes a municipality attractive to businesses? And what do municipalities consider their strengths and how what do they think needs to be addressed? The students carried out a survey to find the answers to these and other questions. Between late 2014 and early 2015, under the supervision of Prof. Matthias Wrede, Chair of Social Policy, they asked a total of 210 municipalities in Middle Franconia – more than half of which responded – to rate their own performances. The aim of the survey was to investigate the relationships between processes and structures in the municipality, living situations and local conditions from the perspectives of the municipalities themselves in order to better understand these connections.
Childcare and healthcare more important than culture and leisure
The survey showed that the municipalities are happy with the quality of life for their citizens in general. The contributing factors that they consider most important here are good childcare and healthcare, ahead of other aspects such as shopping or access to a wide range of cultural and leisure activities. The inhabitants’ involvement in the community was also seen as important and rated positively, in particular the positive work with churches and associations.
By contrast, the municipalities were less satisfied with what they are able to offer businesses. In particular, the availability of property for commercial use was considered poor. The municipalities were also unsatisfied with the access to funding available to companies. A good road network was generally considered important and the existing networks were evaluated positively. However, many municipalities considered that the expansion of broadband infrastructure in 2014 still needed improvement. Another factor that was seen as important for ensuring municipalities are an attractive business location was the quality of the municipalities’ administrative services.
In terms of finances, the results showed that municipalities were much more satisfied with their income from income tax than with the financing allocated to them by the state government. ‘This leads us to conclude that, in general, municipalities expect more support from the Bavarian government,’ Prof. Wrede says. Municipalities feel particularly overstretched – either in terms of staff or finances – when it comes to commercial development and road construction.
Good management essential for better quality
The results of the study indicate that quality of life and what the municipalities have to offer is closely linked to the quality of local management. The ability of municipal government to achieve goals is increased through management tools; transparent administration and government activities allow citizens and businesses to become involved more effectively.
The FAU students’ study provides an important contribution to increasing transparency at the level of municipal government. ‘Based on the data collected, municipalities can compare their evaluations with other municipalities and adjust their policies if necessary,’ Prof. Wrede explains. ‘Citizens and businesses in Middle Franconia can see how municipalities rate their living and working conditions, and can get involved in their communities accordingly.’
Prof. Dr. Matthias Wrede
Phone: +49 911 5302951