Itinera and Deloitte present results Attractiveness Barometer Flemish towns and municipalities

Diegem, 3rd October 2012 - Deloitte Belgium and the Itinera Institute, an independent thinktank specialising in sustainable economic growth and social welfare, today presented the results of their Attractiveness Barometer for towns and municipalities in Flanders. Using clearly defined criteria, the various Flemish towns and municipalities were compared with one another, creating an overview of the most attractive locations in Flanders. The Attractiveness Barometer enables towns and local authorities to assess themselves based on their policies and strategic priorities. The aim is to boost the process of making local councils more professional in the way they operate by providing a "GPS for good local administration".

Local government authorities are increasingly attaching greater importance to the way in which they present themselves to their inhabitants, businesses, institutions, etc. This is because it is in the municipality's interest to attract potential new residents, companies, students and tourists to the local area. The ultimate decision taken by an individual and/or business to come and live or set up in the area, is a question of local 'attractiveness'. Wim Vergeylen, who is responsible for the Public Sector at Deloitte explains: "Not only is the business side of the story important here," he says, "but local authorities are of course also focusing more on the overall quality of living in their community. This means that the perception and general satisfaction of their residents is important, which also tends to colour local election campaigns."

In particular, there is a need for accurate, dependable, good-quality management information that enables local councils and all 'higher' levels of government to take the most appropriate policy decisions. Ivan Van de Cloot, Head Economist at the Itinera Institute, adds: "The Attractiveness Barometer for all towns and municipalities in Flanders provides precisely the information that the local authorities need to plot their strategic course – just like using a GPS, in fact. Our aim is to make a constructive contribution towards how public services are rolled out in Belgium from a long-term perspective."

The Attractiveness Barometer devised by Itinera and Deloitte provides a progressive way of measuring the attractiveness of all Belgian municipalities. Itinera and Deloitte are asking for a more diverse range of data to be made public, such as the results of satisfaction surveys about the quality of what is on offer. There is also a need for a way to monitor all 308 towns and local authorities in Flanders. As part of the region's new Policy and Management Cycle (BBC), having a way of monitoring all 308 Flemish town and local councils provides a useful source of information for assessing the policies they implement, both in terms of time and in comparison with other, similar, authorities.

Methodology: one overall barometer for each municipality

In this study, attractiveness is used as the criterion for ranking local authorities.

One innovative feature is the combination of publicly available data to create an overall 'barometer' for each individual local area, based on the international Smart Cities concept. This concept enables us to compare municipalities based on a range of indicators, focusing specifically on 6 different topics that are important for the people who live and work in a local municipality, i.e. Strength of Administration, Mobility, Environment and Natural Development, Economic Development, Quality of Living and Development of Knowledge. These are also themes that crop up during local elections.

An important factor is only to compare those municipalities that have the same typology. Each one is categorised into a cluster of comparable boroughs, based on the segmentation of Belgian towns and municipalities according to Belfius Bank.

The way the municipalities are then ranked in each of the clusters is the result of the dominance analysis developed by Itinera.

Other comparative studies, in which local municipalities are ranked based on a range of economic, social and geographical characteristics, are often used to identify the top and bottom 'pupils' in the class. "This is not the intention of our study," says Vergeylen. "Our aim is to gauge the extent to which local authorities succeed in offering attractive services in an efficient way: by managing their financial and human resources effectively."

Overview of the most attractive municipalities within their cluster

In the cluster for large regional cities, Leuven came out as the most attractive. Roeselare headed the cluster for regional cities. Among mid-sized cities, Herentals was ranked best

Nieuwpoort scored highest as tourist (coastal) borough.

In the group for municipalities where there is a concentration of business activity, Dentergem (rural and agricultural boroughs with industrial activity), Waregem (towns and built-up boroughs with industrial activity) and Beerse (urbanised country boroughs with industrial activity and demographic growth) occupied the top positions on the Attractiveness Barometer.

Wevelgem was ranked highest in the cluster for highly urbanised boroughs with low income. In the cluster for boroughs with little urbanisation and in demographic decline, Rumst emerged in first place.

Among the residential municipalities Zandhoven (residential boroughs in rural areas), Lint (residential boroughs on the outskirts of town), Aartselaar (built-up boroughs with tertiary activity) and Hove (residential outlying boroughs with high income) came out as the strongest contenders.

Finally, Ruiselede (very rural boroughs with high levels of ageing), Glabbeek (small farming boroughs) and Wuustwezel (rural or urbanised country boroughs with strong demographic growth) were the most attractive rural municipalities.

Recommendations: towards broader, long-term results

The study highlights 4 recommendations, as follows: