Laura Deruytter of the Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research in the Department of Geography at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has won the Global Network on Financial Geography’s FinGeo Doctoral Dissertation Prize. Her research into the origin and evolution of the funding of intercommunal associations over the past 100 years has generated international interest.

Cover page of the dissertation  Laura Deruytter
Cover page of the dissertation Laura Deruytter

"My research was picked up because it focuses on the role of local government in the funding process," says Deruytter. "In the UK and the US, people often forget this role of the government. In recent decades, the impact of financial parties such as banks and pension funds on our daily lives, including through investment in infrastructure and housing, has become greater. Just like in other countries, budgetary pressures and market-oriented reforms are changing financial relations between Flemish municipalities and their infrastructure companies."

However, this financialization has not simply taken over the management and ownership of intercommunal associations in Flanders. "Flemish municipalities actually broadened the mission of intermunicipal associations to pursue the development of essential services, local economic growth and the protection of shareholder value," says Deruytter.

"My research shows that local authorities play an active role in the ’tinkering’ of policy solutions in a changing political-economic context. We therefore need to pay more attention to the financial dependencies and contradictions between municipalities, higher authorities and government entities, as well as the provision of structural funds for energy and water infrastructure."

With Marie DeCock (Faculty of Law, UHasselt) and Elizaveta Gjurova (Department of Political Science, UGent), Laura Deruytter organised a study day about intercommunal associations on 25 November last year. Together, they also presented their findings on oversight of intercommunal associations and the role of municipal councils to the Flemish Parliament on 25 April.