Top Oslo politician steps down

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Erling Lae, who has led Oslo’s municipal government longer than anyone else, announced his resignation on Wednesday. He claimed there was nothing dramatic behind his decision, rather that he just didn’t think it was right to hold the position any longer.

“There’s a time for everyone and everything,” Lae said after taking the podium in Oslo City Hall shortly after the government presented its new budget for next year. His resignation was not expected but most said they understood his reasoning.

Lae, also a top-ranking official of the national Conservative Party (Høyre) , served on Oslo’s byråd (municipal executive board) for 13 years and led it for the past nine as byrådsleder . It’s a tough political post, not be to confused with the mayor’s office, which is more ceremonial. Oslo’s city government is structured much like the Norwegian state’s, with the byråd akin to the government or cabinet (executive branch) and the bystyre as a city council, akin to the parliament. Only politicians from parties that won the most recent municipal elections sit on the byråd , while the bystyre contains all parties that won representation.

The past few years have had their share of city scandals, from ongoing trouble with a new and expensive ticketing system for local public transport to the recenthuge budget overruns for the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump.Lae “has had to shoulder a lot of the burden” commented Rune Gerhardsen of the opposition Labour Party on the city council.

Lae said he knew it would be “impossible” to avoid “fantasy” and speculation over his motives but maintained he simply felt his time was up. “Most people wait too long” to give up such powerful posts, he said. With new municipal elections looming in two years, he felt his successor needed more time to get used to the job.

It will be taken over by current finance leader for the byråd, Stian Berger Røsland, also of the Conservatives. He said he’ll miss Lae, and others expressed the same sentiment.

Lae, an openly gay politician, was popular not just among his own party supporters. He was widely seen as being open-minded, socially adept and an enthusiastic Oslo patriot.

His resignation followed presentation of the capital city’s budget for next year, which despite the overruns on major projects appeared uncontroversial. It earmarks, among other things, much higher funding for nursing homes and few major cuts, thanks to the highest levels of tax and fee income the city has ever had.