The municipal subsidy system in Flanders is heavily skewed towards Antwerp and Ghent, according to an analysis by De Tijd. These two major cities received a third of the 5.1 billion euros that flowed to local authorities in 2022, while 244 often rural municipalities received just as much money.
The study shows that Antwerp and Ghent each receive slightly more than 2,000 euros in subsidies per inhabitant, which is almost three times the Flemish average of 763 euros. Other provincial capitals such as Hasselt, Leuven and Bruges have to make do with around 900 to 1,000 euros per inhabitant. However, the worst-off municipalities receive between 230 and 640 euros per inhabitant. Some of these municipalities have lower subsidies because they have rich residents and a stronger tax base.
Flemish MP Brecht Warnez (CD&V) argues that the distribution is completely unequal and that smaller cities and rural municipalities are seriously underfunded. He believes that the countryside deserves more money and more respect. However, Antwerp and Ghent argue that they face greater challenges such as poverty and homelessness or refugees, and offer many facilities for non-residents. Mathias De Clercq, mayor of Ghent, points out that many tasks have been transferred from supra-local levels to central cities without financial compensation.
Flemish Minister of the Interior Gwendolyn Rutten acknowledges that the distribution is not optimal and expects a study on the Municipal Fund in April. The findings should form the blueprint for a reform in the next legislature.