Christian Ude, Mayor of Munich

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Munich Mayor Christian Ude calls
for end to social divisions in the city

By James Monaghan

31 January 2004: In his second decade in charge of Munich, the capital of Bavaria, the city’s Mayor, Christian Ude, is in bullish mood. In an interview with City Mayors he has reviewed his years in office and laid out his future plans for the city.

• Mayor Monitor for Christian Ude: Assess his performance in office

The fifty-seven year old politician is a lawyer with a respectable bibliography of publications - both political and of a more general nature. He has been active in the Munich Social Democratic Party (SPD) since the seventies, and has been Mayor since September 1993, at the head of a coalition between the SDP and the Green Party.

Munich is a left-of-centre island within Germany’s most conservative state. Every four years without fail, Bavaria elects the right-of-centre Christian Social Union (CSU) to form the state government. The city is therefore the seat of the Bavarian Prime Minister and other state ministries. Through it hold on state affairs the conservative CSU has significant influence in Munich. The opposing political positions taken by city administration and state government do not, however, seem to have harmed Munich.

Indeed, Mayor Ude told City Mayors that Munich, in comparison with the other major German cities, had the lowest unemployment, the highest purchasing power per capita, the largest number of places of education, by far the highest communal investment budget, the lowest crime figures, the highest cultural and recreational opportunities. Along with Cologne, it has the highest birth rate among German cities - with a surplus of births over deaths for the first time in thirty years, and the best childcare arrangements in Bavaria.

The downside of Munich's prosperity includes a housing crisis caused not only by new recruits to the workforce from outside, but also increasing wealth among Munich’s population allowing grownup children to be able to afford a flat of their own. While a poor city will have difficulty looking after disadvantaged sections of the population mere wealth does not solve the social problem. Christian Ude believes that left unchecked, social divisions would increase to everyone's disadvantage. He said: “The city administration must actively intervene to provide social housing, must encourage all parts of the population to have their place in society and must offer all families adequate childcare facilities. Good social conditions predispose a society to have low crime rates and reduced inter-class tensions. This reduces the need for high profile policing to combat crime and social disorder. Therefore all classes have a stake in adequate funding for the city authorities.”

German cities are currently in difficult financial straits. Less at fault the economy in general, which is showing signs of recovery, is the severe shortfall in income from local business tax (Gewerbesteuer). That shortfall, in turn, is caused by consistent overexploitation of traditional loopholes by big business, such as international firms like Munich-based Allianz Insurance, BMW and Siemens. Such firms want to take advantage of the infrastructure in terms of housing, education, culture and transport, while straining every sinew to avoid business tax and thus leaving the whole burden of paying for the infrastructure on the middle classes and the workers.

The Munich Mayor told City Mayors that the Federal Government must change the law to close business tax loopholes. It must also curtail its own demands on the business tax to compensate the cities. It must stop giving local communities tasks to undertake without supplying the means to fulfil them. The Munich Mayor claims that the State of Bavaria has also been guilty of creaming off large amounts of the business tax from cities. Munich, together with other Bavarian cities such as Nuremberg and Augsburg, is campaigning for the State of Bavaria to fall into line with all other federal states and pay all, not just half of the salaries of teachers in state schools, which currently costs Munich 140 million euros.

Over the coming two years Munich faces many potentially rewarding challenges. In 2005 it hosts the German Garden Show, and in 2006 it will host the opening match of the 2006 Football World Cup as one of the nine German cities where games will be played. The World Cup press centre will also be located in Munich.

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