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Amsterdam.nl
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City government
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How city government works


On this page

The city council
Contacting the council
The College of Aldermen
The Mayor
Advisory Committees



Composition



College of Aldermen

City Council

Committees

How city government works

The City Council

Amsterdam is run by the city council and a 'college' of aldermen. The council is the highest authority in the city of Amsterdam and is responsible for all important decisions. Amongst other things, the council sets the city's annual budget (amounting to about 7.5 billion guilders).

There are 45 seats on the council, which are contested by the various political parties. Council members are elected every 4 years by residents of the city of Amsterdam.
In the current council term of 1998-2002, the following political parties are represented on the council: Labour Party (15 seats), Liberals (9 seats), Green Left (7 seats), Democrats 66 (4 seats), Christian Democrats (3 seats), Socialist Party (3 seats), A Different Amsterdam/Greens (3 seats) and Mobile Amsterdam 99 (1 seat).

The proportion of women and resident aliens rose sharply in the council term of 1998-2002, so that the government of Amsterdam better reflects the community at large. In 1998 the council received 23 new members, raising the number of women on the council from 14 to 18 and the number of resident aliens from 6 to 11.

Besides their council work, most councillors also have an actual job. This is because council membership is voluntary work, for which councillors merely receive an allowance. Amsterdam councillors devote on average about 30 hours per week to council work.

The council meets every second Wednesday at 1 pm and, if necessary, again at 7.30 pm the same day. These meetings are open to the public and are held in the council chamber at City Hall. The meetings begin with a 'question-time' session during which councillors can ask questions about matters of current interest.

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Contacting the council

There are various ways in wich Amsterdam's citizens can get in touch with the city council. For example, you can:

  • write a letter to the council (known as a 'council address')
  • express an opinion at committee meetings
  • approach councillors and/or the political parties or write a letter.

For more information about the various ways of making your voice heard and public comment procedures, see ' Having a say'.

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The College of Aldermen

The day-to-day running of Amsterdam is the task of a 'college' made up of the mayor and eight aldermen. Aldermen are elected by and from the council. After they are appointed, the aldermen remain members of the full council and vote in its meetings.

The mayor and the eight aldermen share their work: Each has his own portfolio and areas of responsibilty. The college has to prepare the resolutions to be adopted by the council, and implement the resolutions once they have been adopted. The council may also reject a proposal of the college; the council has the final say.

To be able to manage effectively, the council delegates many tasks to the college. These mainly concern decisions taken on the basis of an established policy which therefore do not need to be debated by the council.

The college meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. These meetings are not open to the pubilc. Most decisions are announced through press releases and ' News from the College of Aldermen'. Decisions are available for inspection (by appointment) in the Public Information Centre.

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The mayor

The mayor occupies a special position. He is not elected by the city's residents, but is appointed by the monarch. He chairs the city council and the college of alderman. He can vote in the college but not in the full council.

The mayor also has various responsibilities of his own. He is head of the police and responsible for maintaining public order in the city. To a large extent he also determines the 'face' that Amsterdam presents to the outside world.

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Advisory committees

Most of the proposals that come before the city council do not proceed there directly. First they are discussed by 'advisory committees', also known as council committees. These committees are made up of members of the city council (including the responsible alderman) who specialise in a particular area of policy.

In Amsterdam there are nine such committees, which usually meet every second week and are mostly open to the public. These meetings are also attended by civil servants who are able to provide information on areas of policy. Other people besides councillors can make their voices heard on the committee, such as members of the public who have written a letter to the council (known as a 'council address'). The smaller parties are sometimes represented on council committees by 'associate councillors'. Associate councillors are people who have not been elected to the city council but were on the list of candidates of the political parties in question.

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City of Amsterdam - 16/09/1999