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Municipalities and local government

Finland has more than 300 municipalities. Under the Constitution of Finland, municipalities are self-governing units and they have the right to tax their residents.

The state may only intervene in the activities of the self-governing units in certain cases. The state may take part in the decision-making concerning the provision of municipal basic services by introducing laws.

Municipalities can set their own tax rates but they are also entitled to a share of the corporate tax revenue determined by Parliament. The state also supports municipalities economically by providing them with state aid for different purposes in accordance with the system of central government transfers.

The municipalities and the authorities operating as part of local government cooperate closely with regional and local state authorities.

Municipal administration

Municipalities are steered by political decision-making. The municipal council is the highest decision-making body in a municipality. Its members are elected by municipal residents for four years in local elections based on universal suffrage.  The municipal council elects the members of the municipal executive, the task of which is to draft decisions for the council and put them into practice.

The municipal council also elects members to municipal committees, which are in charge of the provision of public services in the municipality. The names of the municipal committees and the scope of their activities vary by municipality. The most common of the committees are the education committee, social welfare and health care committee and the municipal planning committee. 

Tasks of the municipalities

Municipalities are responsible for providing their residents with statutory basic services. The basic services are mostly funded with municipal taxes, central government transfers and fees charged for the services.

The most important of the basic services are

  • health care, such as basic health care and specialised medical care
  • social welfare, such as child welfare, care of the elderly and services for people with disabilities
  • educational and cultural services, such as early childhood education, basic education, upper secondary education, library services and youth work
  • technical services, such as building supervision, environmental protection, construction of roads and other infrastructure, water services and waste management.

Joint municipal authorities and regional councils

Cooperation with other municipalities, corporations or companies is often the most economical way of producing municipal basic services. In a joint municipal authority, two or more municipalities produce services together. Joint municipal authorities are founded especially by small municipalities. 

Health care, hospital services and education are the basic services that are most commonly produced by joint municipal authorities. However, municipalities also cooperate within other services. 

Regional councils are statutory joint municipal authorities in which each municipality of the region must be a member. Regional councils have two main tasks under law: regional development and regional land use planning.
Municipalities also cooperate outside joint municipal authorities and regional councils.

    Text edited by: Suomi.fi editorial team

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    Updated: 1/23/2018