The Storting (parliament) has adopted a local and regional government reform which means that Norway will have 11 counties, including Oslo, from 2020.
Reasons for this restructuring include a desire to strengthen local democracy. One step in that context is to transfer functions from central government to the new county councils, bringing them closer to the population and to popularly elected bodies.
County councils represent the regional tier of popularly elected government in Norway, and sit between the local authorities and central government. The Storting has decided that they will be responsible for social development in Norway. This is because the county councils are best suited to facilitate positive social change in all parts of the country on the basis of their regional advantages, qualifications and priorities. In this way, they can become a more equal partner for central government authorities.
The new regional structure will give the county councils more functions without reducing their existing responsibilities. A White Paper with proposals for such new functions is due to be presented by the government in the autumn of 2018.
By making county councils larger and more robust, the Storting wants to strengthen their authority and expertise. When it decided in 2016 that Norway would have about 10 regions from 2020, the existing county councils were encouraged to engage in “fraternal chats” with their neighbours. Østfold, Akershus and Buskerud pursued discussions both with each other and independently with other relevant councils.
In June 2017, a Storting majority resolved that Østfold, Akershus and Buskerud will form a completely new country council to be known as Viken. This is an old name for the area around the Oslo Fjord.
Viken county council will become a reality from 1 January 2020.
Viken in figures
- Akershus, Østfold and Buskerud currently embrace 61 local authorities. Seventeen of these have less than 5 000 residents.
- Viken will have 49 local authorities from 2020.
- Akershus, Østfold and Buskerud currently have 74 upper secondary schools, including 58 operated by the county councils. Collectively, these counties had 42 386 upper secondary students in the 2016-17 school year. Of these, 40 241 attended schools run by the county councils.
- Viken will have a total of 1.2 million residents, making it the most populous county in Norway.
Map, Viken county council from 2020