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City Management in Tilburg: Past, Present and Future
The Netherlands

Keywords: Community Participation & Urban Governance
Economic Development


The city of Tilburg presents itself as a " Modern Industrial City", a strategic vision for the future which gives the key for the city's development in many policy areas. This vision has repercussions for the way the city manages its physical and quality development. Also is chosen for a new organisation of the city administration which became known as The Tilburg Model. In this model the municipality is split in divisions wich operate like profit centres and produce clearly defined products. The basis for the new city management is set in the first City Management Plan made in 1989. From that moment on, city planning and programming in Tilburg are carried out in an organized process.


Tilburg has 165,000 inhabitants, making it the seventh largest city in The Netherlands, and fulfills a central function in the region of Middle-Brabant. It has grown from a primarily agricultural city to an industrial one where, until not to long ago, the textile industry determined the image of the city. Today, the city presents itself as "Tilburg Modern Industrial City", a strategic vision for the future wich gives the key for the city's development in many policy areas. This vision has repercussions for the physical and quality development of the city, as well as for the form of the city organization itself.

    The Tilburg Model

Fifteen years ago, a totally new manner was chosen for the organization of the city administration wich became known as The Tilburg Model.
In this model you find a way of working that is similair to the principles of businesses wich are built with a holding and divisions. The divisions operate like profit centres and produce clearly defined products. In the political system (City Board and Council) decisions are made about which products have to be made, in wich quantities and according to which quality standards. The civil service (city administration) is resposible for the production at the lowest possible costs according to the specifications defined in the political system. The council does not, however, interfere with the way the products are made or delivered. Basically, the departements are contracted by the political system and have to inform the politicians, via a very transparant information system, about the progress and eventual deviations in the productions. Based on this information, the City Council can adapt their decisions.
Just as important is the way in which the city organization, as well as the town council, trys to deal with citizens and other concerned parties in the city. Especially in the seventies when far reaching city renewal projects were developed and carried out, Tilburg developed a participation system wich is used in few Dutch cities. A certain degree of contribution is given to Tilburg's neighborhoods and districts in the formation and implementation of policy decisions. This development has been 'translated' into a more modern day set of instruments. The "customers" of Tilburg's city organisation form an increasingly important factor in the development of the city and the content of, for example, city management.

    City management in theory

The basis for the new city management is set in the first City Management Plan made in 1989. From that moment on, city planning and programming in Tilburg are carried out in an organized process.
This occurs in an annual project where, thanks to the input of residents in the form of neighborhood descriptons and signals combined with the City Plan and basic quality plans, a good balance is achieved between what is technically necessary and what the residents feel is necessary.

The city plan is primarily a physical plan for the entire surface area of the city and gives general guidelines for city policy in a number of areas such as housing, working, traffic, etc. The key concept in the City Plan is that of 'Basic Quality'. The starting point is that the city as a whole should offer sufficient basic quality. In order to maintain this basic quality, the majority of the city requires only normal maintenance. Areas of the city which offer insufficient basic quality can be designated as special attention areas for city management. The same is true for the developing areas.
The idea 'basic quality' can be defined as the minimum acceptable quality level of different aspects which form the daily living environment and which fall under city control.
Even though there is information available for many quality aspects, the 'basic quality'-cocept must be further developed. For the so-called 'soft' quality concepts, the methods are aspecially limited and standards are almost totally absent. This doesn't alter the fact that the reports on basic quality are very useful as direction indicators for policy preparation and establishment. Basic Quality Plans are an essential part of the neghborhood auditing process.

In addition to the above, neighborhood descriptions have been used to develop another method of problem recognition. It is the other part of neigborhood auditing. Through neighborhood descriptions the statistical information can be combined with neighborhood information and, after being matched to the specific situation, can be interpreted. By doing this, the general and specific measurements in the neighborhoods are verified and the scope for it is enlarged.

The publication of the Tilburg's City Plan in 1989 was the catalyst for the first neighborhood descriptions. In it the residents and users were urged to give their ideas concerning the establishment of priorities for the annual budgeting of city management funds. According to a set method, eight neighborhood descriptions were made.
The presentation of these descriptions to the city resulted in work visits by the responsible alderman and project leaders to the participating neighborhoods. Due in part to these visits, the results were integrated into concrete yearly implementation plans and the financial multiple year planning of the City Plan: the yearly City Programs.

    The five-step method

The City Program, as well as the neighborhood and district descriptions, have become a succes in Tilburg. The starting point of the method is that there is a strong involvement and interest in the neighborhood and that this interest is made visible. The general guidelines of the method used consist of five steps wich are as follows: 1.problem recognition - to identify all problems in the neighborhood;
2.agreement - to discuss the results together;
3.the solution - how the recognized problems can be solved;
4.the responsibilities - who is responsible for carrying out the solution;
5.the agreement - are individuals and organizations in agreement with the solutions.

In order to achieve as direct a connection as possible with the City Plan, a checklist has been made of the issues in that plan. By using this checklist, the improvement workers make an inventory of problem areas per district or neighborhood. This inventory is sent to all known resident organizations, users and superintendents/managers in the neighborhood.

    City management in practice

In 1992, a work group made a balance of what had actually been improved in the neighborhoods in the first year and a half. The occasion was also used to update problem area inventories. This evaluation was also made into a folder, presented and talked over in a forum discussion. Unresolved, as well as new problem areas were integrated in the city description system. Based upon this system, resources for 1993 were divided and the implementation of measures was planned.

One of the things wich emerged from the evaluation was that an integrated approach to the city's problems was not always easy. Methods were sought to make social management a more structural and integrated part of city management.
In order to make discussion at a district level possible, the city's departments must make their activities in each area visible. Year after year, the quality and integral scale of this process improves.
The cooperation within the project requires constant attention, not only between different city departments, but also between the city and external partners.
In the years in which city management has been in practice, the high level of response from citizens and other concerned parties has been striking. The residents organizations have especially react to ideas and plans from the city. The realization of the participants goals has clearly been brought closer as well.

    One step futher: the City Program

Using input from the basic quality plans and the neighborhood descriptions, the City Plan is given concrete form in The City Program which is drawn up annually. In it, the different areas of the city and their management steps are given. The 'rough draft' of the distribution of the city renewal funds is also given in The City Program.

The city sees the reactions to this program as an important source of information on areas of concern and problems in the city. The Program has financial space built in so that reactions can be responsed to. The City Program, after being adapted based on the reactions recieved is fixed as an element of the city budget in the spring. This procedure has helped to greatly stimulate the different neighborhoods to list their problem areas and to create a neighborhood description.

    The future of city management

It has become clear that city management in Tilburg is based upon four starting points. In the first place, there is the discussion of what needs to be done in neighborhoods, followed by the creation of a systematic distribution of a means to do it. The second essential step is a discussion about the technical quality of all the policy areas using a systematic basic quality concept. Thirdly, the city would like to involve the residents at a "smaller than neighborhood" scale in the decisions making, to prevent technical bureaucratic decisions from being made wich do not help the actual problems faced in the neighborhoods. The final goal is to integrate city policy at the neighborhood/district level.

City management extends beyond the physical and city-planning quality, because it includes such things as social service facilities, a good environment, etc. Tilburg chooses more and more for an integrated approach which can be applied to the manner in which the city administration works, as well as in the organizational structure of the city. It also means that the city wants to share responsibilities with other organizations, such as housing corporations, social service organizations and citizens themselves.


  • Businesslike organisation of the municipality.
  • Every year money left over.
  • Every year 250.000 ECU for ideas from citizens.
  • Small scale monitoring of fysical and social livebility.
  • Measurable improvement of the livebility in wards.
  • Decentralization of service and responsibility.


    Progress in vulnerable neigborhoods between 1990 and 1993

Every two year the real effects of the investments in vulnerable neighborhoods are measured. In order to achieve the necessary information for this kind of comparisons we use statistical information and survey results. The defined goal, the improvement of the livebility in neighborhoods is made measurable in this way. The results of the first comparison shows largely a positive development . We saw a significant improvement of the situation in the selected neighborhoods in relation to the entire city. Items the research was based up on were: social cohesion, degeneration, annoyance, unsafety, the possibility to become a crime victim and traffic problems.

    Profit for a city

From 1988 untill present day, the Municipality of Tilburg had money left over every year. This is one of the results of The Tilburg Model, the way the divisions operate like profit centres. In the first place, that money is invested in the city. For instance it is used for cofinancing a new soccer stadium and a concert hall. Tilburg's citizens benefit from those investments. This approach is also benefical for residents in another way. The city has been able to limit the increase in the cost of living for her citizens. Tilburg used to be number seven on the list of most expensive city's in The Netherlands. Now the city is number 30 on the list, making it one of the cheapest cities in the country.

    Openness for proposals from citizens

The cooperation and communication between citizens, the local government, social organisations and businesses is based on accessibility of all necessary information and participation for all. The information is set available by producing and widely spreading several reports with statistics, conclusions about basic quality, results from survey's etc. Communication takes place on several organized platforms, frequent meetings, visits, etc. in the neighborhoods These are important conditions for a more rational negotiation process, more efficient decision-making, higher quality decisions and more democratic decision making. Because fewer wrong decisions are made a reduction of costs is reached. In this situation citizens are more or less partners in the process of improving the quality of life in the neigborhoods of the city. Therefore the Municipality of Tilburg reserves every year in the City Program (turnover: 25 milj. ECU) more than 250.000 ECU for initiatives from citizens to improve the livebility in the neighborhoods.


  • progress of efficiency in city management;
  • progress of democracy;
  • progress of quality of livebility in wards;
  • progress of physical quality.


    Municipality of Tilburg
    Stadhuisplein 130 /PB 717
    Noord Brabant
    The Netherlands
    5000 AS
    (31) 13 5428811


    Municipality of Tilburg
    Municipality of Tilburg
    Stadhuisplein 130 /PB 717
    Noord Brabant
    The Netherlands
    5000 AS
    (31) 13 5428811


    Vromans J.
    p/a Publieke Werken PB 717
    Noord Brabant
    The Netherlands
    5000 AS
    (31) 13 5428571

    Leeuwenkamp H.
    p/a Concernstaf PB 717
    Noord Brabant
    The Netherlands
    5000 AS
    (31) 13 5428993

    Schouten R.
    p/a Publieke Werken PB 717
    Noord Brabant
    The Netherlands
    5000 AS
    (31) 13 5428566

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