The global process of transformation of the territories of the Kama region, which began more than a decade ago, is coming to an end. During this period, new municipal formations were created in the region, which united regional centers and settlements. Alexander Boychenko, Chairman of the Committee on State Policy and Local Self-Government of the Legislative Assembly of the Perm Territory, spoke about the purpose of this process and what economic benefits the inhabitants of the territories received.
Alexander Yuryevich, how did the process of transforming the territories of the Perm Territory begin? What significant events over the past few years characterize it?
Alexander Boychenko: It began with the fact that in 2011-2012, that is, more than 10 years ago, the laws of the Perm Territory were adopted on the transformation into the urban districts of Lysva and Gubakha. The creation of new municipalities took place at the will of the inhabitants, expressed through a vote held separately in each of the two territories. The purpose of the transformation is to accelerate socio-economic development and improve the living standards of the population.
In parallel, in some areas of the region, the process of unification of rural settlements was going on. Then the legislation did not yet allow the creation of municipal districts. Settlements were enlarged to consolidate financial resources. Thus, such municipal formations as Lobanovskoe and Savinskoe in the Perm region, Osintsevskoe and Ust-Kishertskoe in Kishertsky and many others appeared on the map of the Kama region.
In 2017, the newly formed municipalities began to receive additional funds from the regional budget for the implementation of comprehensive development programs, including landscaping, road repairs, renovation of engineering infrastructure, and so on, the transformed territories began to compensate for lost income. Perhaps this played a decisive role in this process, so since 2018 it has become an avalanche.
In the issue of consolidation of territories, the region has gained a lot of experience, which we share with colleagues from other regions of the Volga, Urals, North-Western federal districts. As a result of all the transformations, we have now practically returned to the system that existed before 2003, when we had 48 municipalities in the region: eight cities and 40 municipal districts. So, after the reform of 2003, almost 400 municipalities appeared in the Kama region, and today their number has decreased to 43.
What are the benefits of transforming the territories of the region to their residents?
Alexander Boychenko: There is such a wording that the government is active if all its powers are supported by appropriate funding. But small municipalities have very modest financial resources; due to these circumstances, they cannot develop development programs for several years ahead. Therefore, the transformation process was launched in order to give even small rural settlements new opportunities.
The experience of the territories where consolidation has taken place suggests that a more comfortable environment for life is being created there, additional funds are appearing for the implementation of various projects. So, for example, after the unification of Berezniki and the Usolsky district, the cost of maintaining the apparatus of municipal employees in the district decreased by 55.9 million rubles a year. The region added its own funds under the “ruble for ruble” system, and a double amount was directed to development. In the villages of Berezovka, Pyskor and Romanovo, the heating system was replaced, safe fences were installed in kindergartens and schools, and a playground appeared in Usolye, where 11 types of gaming and sports equipment were installed.
Another advantage is that for residents of rural areas, as a result of transformations, municipal services become more accessible – the principle of a one-stop shop for appeals to authorities appears.
It is worth noting that decisions on the creation of new municipalities were considered and adopted by the committee only if the residents of the merging territories spoke out in favor of enlargement, expressing their will at public hearings, and if deputies of local representative bodies voted for the emergence of a new municipality.
Could you please tell us, using the example of Gubakha, what advantages have its residents and residents of several nearby settlements received from the transformation into an urban district?
Alexander Boychenko: In the urban district, Gubakha was merged with two small workers’ settlements, which could not afford any serious infrastructure projects, since their budgets were mostly subsidized. That is, neither new roads, nor kindergartens, nor any other important facilities could be built by these settlements on their own. But everything changed after they entered the city district, because in this way they had the opportunity to develop as the territory of a larger municipality. Gubakha also benefited from this association, because the inhabitants of the settlements almost daily went to a large regional center to work. Therefore, the municipality needs to repair the roads leading from these villages and create social infrastructure facilities. All these expenses from the municipal budget are now planned and are not a problem for the Gubakha urban district.
What difficulties did you encounter in the process of transforming the territories of the Perm Territory?
Alexander Boychenko: As a rule, opponents of the reforms justified their opinion by the fact that the residents of the settlement, which will become part of the urban district, will lose various benefits that they had as rural residents. But in fact, they have these benefits. There is also a concern that the burden on the budgets of municipalities that are merging with rural settlements will increase significantly. Indeed, various infrastructure projects, including in the interests of the annexed settlements, will need to be implemented more, but the amount of support from the regional budget for these purposes will also increase commensurately.
At the federal level, it is now being said that the role and weight of municipalities should increase. What is this about?
Alexander Boychenko: This is true: legislators are trying to strengthen the role of municipalities in solving various problems, to give them greater independence in the formation and distribution of their budget. As a result, this should affect the quality of life of the population. But federal legislation in the field of transformation of territories and the creation of new municipalities will need to be improved. The fact is that it equally regulates the processes for such large municipalities as Domodedovo, where one of the largest airports in Russia and many industrial enterprises are located, and for small rural-type settlements. I am sure that we will be able to make legislative adjustments at the regional level. We already have such experience: in the regional legislation, we single out such large municipalities with a population of more than 100,000 people, such as, for example, Berezniki. I am sure that at the federal level the legislation on municipalities will be supplemented with amendments.
What awaits the Perm region? Will it be attached to Perm?
Alexander Boychenko: This issue has been discussed periodically, but there are no definite decisions on this matter. Let me remind you that the topic of expanding agglomerations appeared quite a long time ago. We all remember how, in the early 2000s, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov argued with Moscow Region Governor Boris Gromov about whose area of responsibility the Sheremetyevo airfield was located. Similar situations appeared in other regions, so they tried to resolve the issue as quickly as possible at the legislative level.
In the Kama region, nothing like this has arisen between the regional capital and its suburbs: the leadership of Perm has always found an opportunity to agree with colleagues when it was necessary to build new infrastructure facilities, enterprises or shopping centers on the territory of the Perm region. Today, the Perm municipal district is self-sufficient, with large settlements such as Lobanovo, Kultaevo or Kondratovo, they are developing at a good pace. In particular, this is evidenced by the fact that the number of inhabitants of these territories is increasing year by year. If people go there to live, then they see the prospects.
What, in your opinion, should be strengthened today in the interaction between the Perm Territory and municipal structures?
Alexander Boychenko: In my opinion, such interaction, first of all, should be operational: there is no need to accumulate a lot of problematic issues, they need to be addressed as they arise. I recently voiced this idea at the Council of Heads of Municipalities of the region. In particular, I suggested that the representatives of the municipalities not delay with sensitive issues, but immediately contact the regional executive authorities and our Committee on State Policy and Local Self-Government of the Legislative Assembly of the Perm Territory. We will work together and find ways to solve them.