National ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen argues in an interview with Trouw on Thursday for a help desk in every Dutch municipality where citizens can turn to with all sorts of questions.

According to Van Zutphen, a citizen must be able to enter his town hall and say: "This is my problem, help me".

These questions can be about anything, the ombudsman says in the newspaper. Whether it is a broken refrigerator or accidentally destroyed bank statements: the citizen has a right to help, he says. "If people come up with problems that the municipality does not address, you can at least help them on their way."

Van Zutphen says in the interview that he asked fifteen hundred people what they expect from the government. It would appear that the citizen primarily wants the government to be approachable. "A website or an app can be helpful, but ultimately the citizen always has the right to human contact with the government."

The National Ombudsman in brief

  • The National Ombudsman is independent and impartial.
  • He or she has the task of handling complaints from citizens about improper government action.
  • The ombudsman has been appointed by the Second Chamber for a term of six years.
  • Van Zutphen has been performing this task since 1 April 2015.
  • The ombudsman does not operate alone, but has an organization of 180 employees around him.
  • In addition to the National Ombudsman, there is also a Children's Ombudsman and a Veteran Ombudsman.

"Government has become a machine"

In the eyes of the Ombudsman, the government mainly focuses on people who are "self-reliant" and "understand the digitization". Some 2 to 2.5 million people are forgotten, he says. According to him, this group includes people who live in poverty, have a disability or are low literate.

"The government has become a machine" and "the citizen has received a government that he no longer knows," concludes Van Zutphen in Trouw .

Van Zutphen is taking part in a conference in Utrecht on Thursday where scientists and administrators are considering how the government and citizens should treat each other in 2030. Prime Minister Mark Rutte is also a guest at the conference.


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