After the surcharge affair and growing critical, the Council of State (rvs) sees opportunities for improvements. Where in cases that citizens bring against the government now only the government has the right to correct mistakes, citizens do not. “We could see how we can give the citizen a helping hand there. For example, hiring an independent expert and possibly an interim ruling, so that citizens can produce more pieces.”
That says chairman Bart Jan van Ettekoven of the Administrative Justice Department, who believes that “the proceedings should remain fair before the court”. Van Ettekoven calls the experiences in the supplement affair a “dark page”. “Weve seen that we cant always trust the government. The Tax Administrations Surcharges Department, which, for example, withheld information from the court, caused a dent in trust.
Lately, there has been more and more criticism of the rvs. The fight against the government – in major issues, such as nitrogen emissions, to small ones, for example, the construction of a dormer – would be unfair. The Council would be too much on the hands of the government. Van Ettekoven does not agree with that criticism. “We regularly make statements, also in big cases, which the government is not happy with.” As examples, Van Ettekoven mentions the stiksfof ruling, the windmill ruling, the case for the Stint and, for example, the ruling on the Airbnb rules in Amsterdam.
Testing the rules of the law
Still, people are often disappointed, even if they get right from the rvs. This proved in the Nieuwsuur series in Delfzijl, for example: there are now 32 mills of 40 meters high, but dozens are added with a height of 204 meters. Local residents try to stop the expansion through the court. They recorded two big victories, despite all the experts and lawyers that the government engaged. Twice, the Council of State rejected the wind farm, but the municipality adapted the plans so that they are in legal order now.
“Citizens say they dont have an equal chance. But there is no such thing as the citizen. For some citizens, decisions are positive and negative for others. The government keeps all interests in mind. The administrative judge looks at the decision making, and not the political choice. We test against the rules of the law.”
Can it be better at the Council of State? What do the experts think? “The government too often gets the benefit of the doubt with the rvs.”
Previously, the rvs already apologized to parents who got into trouble due to the allowance affair. “What went wrong was that the first cases were mostly fraud cases. Then we deployed the strict line. But the nature of things changed and we stayed in the strict groove. We should have applied the proportionality test earlier.”
There is also criticism of the rvs in the House of Representatives. Recently, almost the entire opposition voted for a motion by the SP to do something about it. At the heart of that motion: administrative justice must be removed from the rvs. The rvs is now also the highest advisor to the government.