Dithmarschen (North Sea)

Local Self-Government in the District of Dithmarschen

Legal status
The districts are both associations of boroughs and local authorities.  They are legal persons under public law (i.e. bodies corporate) with territorial jurisdiction. The districts – independent of the sum of the boroughs that they cover – constitute a new legal entity. Not only the federal government, the states (“Länder”) and the boroughs, but also these districts are public administrative bodies.

The districts are authorised and, within the scope of their competence, to carry out all public functions on their own responsibility in so far as those functions cannot be carried out by the boroughs and offices in the district on account of a lack of competence and size and unless otherwise expressly prescribed by law. The district and the boroughs should work together in carrying out all the tasks associated with local self-government. The self-government of the district is designed to supplement and promote the self-government of its boroughs. The districts’ self-government tasks consist of supra-borough tasks, supplementary tasks and compensatory tasks.

Supra-borough tasks are ones which can only be carried out reasonably by an authority higher than a borough (examples: construction and maintenance of district roads, waste disposal, district development planning, rescue services, hospitals, sponsorship of technical and commercial colleges and special needs schools, social welfare and youth welfare).

The districts’ supplementary tasks are characterised by the fact that the boroughs and offices within the district and the district itself are involved in carrying out parts of particular tasks that are essentially connected. This happens primarily when the boroughs and offices operate near the limits of their competence in carrying out a task. A task can also be taken over by the district if standard implementation is required for all the boroughs within the district (examples: aspects of public services provided, of supply and waste disposal and also of education). The compensatory function of the districts is designed to ensure equality in the provision of public services and facilities for the population. It is carried out primarily by means of subsidies and grants for tasks carried out by the boroughs.  The rates levied by the district and imposed on the district’s boroughs in accordance with the regulations of the monetary compensation law and in line with their financial powers, also have a compensatory – or equalising – effect.

In addition to the tasks associated with self-government, the districts undertake tasks in compliance with instructions (examples: policy on asylum-seekers, building supervision, commercial law, rural conservation, water authority, highways authority, hunting authority, law of nationality and citizenship, law on rights of assembly).

While responsibility for decision-making in relation to self-government tasks lies with the district council or, if properly delegated, with the district administrator or the district council’s committees, sole responsibility for carrying out tasks in compliance with instructions rests solely with the district administrator.

In addition general lower-level land authorities were formed within districts. These are responsible for tasks such as the state supervision of district boroughs and offices, supervision of departments of the district boroughs and offices, supervision of public bodies, of schools and institutional care. Again responsibility for this area rests with the district administrator.

Executive bodies
The executive bodies of the district are the district council and the district administrator (article 7 of KrO – German district constitution).