Regional Councils and Regional development
Finland is divided into 18 regions, plus the autonomous province of Åland.
Finland's Regional Councils are statutory joint municipal authorities operating according to the principles of local self-government. The Councils operate as regional development and planning authorities and look after regional interests. On the basis of municipal democracy they articulate common regional needs and work to promote the material and cultural well-being of their regions. Besides the statutory responsibilities, Regional Councils have also other tasks.
The delegates to the decision-making bodies of the Regional Councils are influential political appointees of the member municipalities. Reflecting the outcome of local elections, they represent the political will of the region’s inhabitants.
The emphasis of the work of the Regional Councils is on both long-term planning and fast reaction to topical phenomena. The Councils also implement and coordinate a number of national and EU projects.
Planning for a region includes a strategic regional plan, a regional plan and a regional development programme and its implementation plan. A strategic regional plan is the basis for regional development. All the other plans and programmes regarding regional development, including implementing EU Structural Fund Programmes are derived from the three documents listed above.
Economic development policy
Local authorities’ economic development and employment policies are aimed at safeguarding the region’s competitiveness and viability. Economic development policy covers a variety of issues related to supporting business and industry, ranging from the development of city centres to the building of technology centres; from enterprise start-up to establishing Web presence.
Active economic development policy can also involve the development of public services through private service provision, or co-operation with businesses aimed at improving local skills and competencies required by active involvement in the information society.
The management of economic development policy is increasingly spread out across the entire municipal organisation. The policy is implemented through economic development companies, business partnerships, enterprise agencies, or incubators, to name a few. Also, local authorities have entrusted the management of EU grants to public authorities responsible for rural economic development. Many municipalities are also involved in business mentor projects that are aimed at reinforcing local business operations.
While the past few years have seen an increasing convergence of employment policy with economic development policy, the main task of the former is and will be to find ways to combat unemployment. These measures include youth workshops and partnership projects. A new form of operation is the system of abour force service centres, where services provided by local authorities, labour administration, and the Social Insurance Institution are tailored to the client’s individual needs.