Enough with Stockholm, move gov agencies across country including to Arctic, says Swedish PM

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Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
The offices of seven authorities will be relocated from Stockholm to other cities and towns in a bid to “decentralise” the state apparatus, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on Wednesday.

It was at a press conference in Katrineholm, west of Stockholm, that Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven and the public administration minister Ardalan Shekarabi announced the move. It is expected to be carried out over the next two years and will concern between 500 and 550 jobs, the ministers said.

Löfven said this is a question of legitimacy for the state across Sweden. “For far too long, there has been a clear trend of centralisation,” he said, pointing out that too much government administration has been based in, and focused on, the capital city.

“Under the previous centre-right government, there was little interest in the rest of the country. There was a kind of obsession with Stockholm,” said Löfven.

Equal opportunities across the country

Löfven said that having most government authorities operating out of the capital marginalises people in the rest of the country as it limits opportunities to live and work in smaller towns.

“This move is fundamentally about legitimacy,” Löfven said. “Because where the state is physically present, public trust and confidence increases. However, if it is the other way around – if state presence decreases around the country – the feeling of belonging and of trust and confidence decreases, too.”

The government has already moved four government agencies from the capital.

The Health Agency moved to Kalmar, the Estate Agents Inspectorate moved to Karlstad, the Family Law and Parental Support Authority moved to Skellefteå, and parts of Statistics Sweden moved to Örebro.

Now, another seven authorities are to follow. These are:

  • The Radiation Safety Authority (in part) – to Katrineholm
  • The Polar Research Secretariat – to Luleå
  • The Agency for Cultural Policy Evaluations and Analyses – to Gothenburg
  • The Agency for Youth and Civil Society – to Växjö
  • The ESF Council – to Gävle
  • The Council for Higher Education – to Visby
  • The Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (in part) to Östersund
“We see big potential here”

In the case of the Radiation Safety Authority, the move concerns some 120 jobs. Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shakarabi noted that 700 state jobs existed in Katrineholm in 2005. A decade later that figure was down to 520. Now, Shakarabi said, the hope is that many current staff members will decide to keep their jobs, and commute to Katrineholm.

“Katrineholm is a medium-sized Swedish municipality, with a strategic location in the middle of a growth region. Within 150 kilometres, a third of Sweden’s population can be reached and we see big potential here,” said Shekarabi.

Fears of resignations and low efficiency

Saco-S, the trade union for white-collar workers working for state agencies, is critical of the government’s decision. In a written statement, chairperson Lena Emanuelsson said there is a risk that many employees will resign and that efficiency will go down.

“Previous experiences from relocations show that it is very costly and there is a negative effect on operations,” Emanuelsson said.

“Large expert agencies, such as the National Audit Office and the Agency for Public Management, have reached those conclusions in their evaluations. The government should listen to the experts and stop the plans to relocate government agencies,” Emanuelsson insisted.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs gets major shake up, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Helsinki, Finland set to become world’s busiest sea passenger port, Yle News

Norway: European Parliament member bikes 240 km in support of Arctic railway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s Prime Minister reaffirms commitment to country’s defense, Radio Sweden

Russia: Putin signs law easing cross-border cooperation with Norway and Finland, The Independent Barents Observe

United States:  U.S. transportation secretary announces efforts to speed up project development in Alaska, Alaska Dispatch News

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