Decision-making vocabulary

The key terms related to the City of Helsinki’s decision-making process are explained in the decision-making vocabulary.


fi: hallintosääntö, sv: förvaltningsstadgan

Administrative regulations are a key tool used to guide the municipality’s administration and operations. Administrative regulations define the municipal organisation’s top level and how powers are divided between various decision-makers. Each municipality and joint municipal authority must have administrative regulations, the content of which is defined in the Local Government Act.

The fundamental provisions on the City Council’s meetings are laid down in the Local Government Act. In contrast, the meeting procedure used by other governing bodies is primarily based on the administrative regulations. The City Council decides the content of the administrative regulations and amendments to them. Municipal administration must comply with the administrative regulations.

See the Helsinki website (in Finnish) for the City of Helsinki’s administrative regulations.

fi: Ahjo, sv: Ahjo

Ahjo is the City of Helsinki’s online case management and decision-making system. All the matters brought before Helsinki’s governing bodies and all the matters decided by office holders by preparing official records are processed in the Ahjo system. Ahjo supports the openness of Helsinki’s decision-making and makes the processing of matters easier and faster. The decisions made in the Ahjo system are made available to everyone in the Decisions service. Some of the decisions are available in Finnish and Swedish, while most are only available in Finnish.

fi: johtokunnat, sv: direktioner

Each of the City of Helsinki’s public enterprises has a board of directors, which decides on things such as the public enterprise’s highest level of organisation and otherwise oversees the public enterprise’s operations.

fi: talousarvioaloite, sv: budgetmotion

Budget initiative refers to a councillor’s initiative to allocate an appropriation (amount of money) to an item in the next year’s budget. The City Board responds to budget initiatives when considering the budget for the year in question. The City Council then considers these responses when deciding on the budget. There is no required number of signatories in budget initiatives.

fi: kaupunginhallitus, sv: stadsstyrelsen

The City Board operates under the City Council, managing the City’s operations, administration and finances. The City Board is also responsible for coordinating the City’s operations, preparing and carrying out the City Council’s decisions, and monitoring their lawfulness.

The City Board has 15 members. Each member has a personal deputy member. The Mayor chairs the City Board, and the Deputy Mayors are among its members. The City Council chooses the other 10 members and deputy members from among the City Councillors and Deputy Councillors. The City Board’s period of office is two years.

fi: kaupunginhallituksen jaostot, sv: stadsstyrelsens sektioner

The City Board has three sub-committees, namely the City Group Sub-committee, Economic Development Sub-committee and City Board’s Sub-committee for Reform of Social, Health and Rescue Services. The City Group Sub-committee monitors the operations of the foundations and subsidiary communities included in the City Group. The Economic Development Sub-committee oversees the City’s economic development, competitiveness, immigration and employment policies. Each of the two sub-committees has nine members appointed by the City Council for a two-year period. The Economic Development Sub-committee is chaired by the Mayor, while the City Group Sub-committee’s chairperson is appointed by the City Council.

Additionally, the City Board’s Sub-committee for Reform of Social, Health and Rescue Services will operate for the duration of the reform process, until the end of 2023. The Sub-committee oversees the implementation of the reform, conveys the views of elected officials for consideration in the preparation process and submits the necessary decision proposals to the City Board.

fi: kaupunginvaltuusto, sv: stadsfullmäktige

The City Council is the highest decision-making body of Helsinki. It is elected through local elections every four years. It oversees the City’s operations and finances. The City Council decides what governing bodies the municipality has, who their members are, and how the powers and responsibilities are divided between the elected officials and municipal office holders. The City Council has 85 members, who represent different political groups. Each City Councillor has a Deputy Councillor. At least two thirds of the City Councillors must be present at meetings. Decisions require a majority vote from the City Councillors present at the meeting.

fi: toimikunnat, sv: kommittéer

The commissions established by the City Board are either tasked with monitoring different cross-sectoral themes – such as the Bilingualism Commission, Gender Equality Commission and Non-discrimination Commission – or carrying out specific tasks – such as the Personnel Fund Commission, History Commission and Place Name Commission. Commissions do not have direct decision-making power. The Audit Committee may establish commissions to help organise its auditing work.

fi: lautakunnat ja niiden jaostot, sv: nämnder och deras sektioner

Each of the City’s four divisions has a 13-member committee and one to three subcommittees. The City of Helsinki’s divisions are the Education Division, Urban Environment Division, Culture and Leisure Division, and Social Services and Health Care Division. Additionally, enterprise boards and the Rescue Committee operate under the Central Administration and the City divisions. The committees are responsible for tasks such as overseeing and monitoring the operations within their area of responsibility and deciding the principles concerning organising and implementing the services under their responsibility. The committee members and deputy members are appointed by the City Council. Each member has a personal deputy member.

fi: vammaisneuvosto, sv: handikapprådet

The Council on Disability is an influencing body established by the City Board in accordance with the Local Government Act. Its purpose is to ensure the ability of people with disabilities to influence and participate in matters. The Local Government Act states that people with disabilities, as well as their families and organisations, must be sufficiently represented in the Council on Disability. Read more(Link leads to external service)

fi: valtuutetun aloite, sv: fullmäktigemotion

The City Councillors have the right to put forward initiatives on matters concerning the entire City. They must submit these initiatives to the chairperson in writing during a meeting. The initiatives are then sent to the City Board for consideration.

If at least 25 City Councillors sign an initiative, the City Board responds to it, and the City Council then considers the City Board’s response. If an initiative has less than 25 signatories, the governing body that responds to the initiative is either the City Board, a committee or a board, depending on which governing body or subordinate authority has authority over the measures proposed in the initiative. The City Board also responds to initiatives when the measures proposed by the initiative are under the City Council’s authority or concern matters under the authority of more than one division. 

fi: vastaehdotukset, sv: motförslag

A counter-proposal is used to propose a decision that deviates from the original proposal presented in the meeting agenda. When counter-proposals are made during discussion, a vote is held about them after the discussion. In this vote, the proposal and counter-proposals are set up as alternative choices. If a counter-proposal is independent of the other counter-proposals, a separate vote is held about approving or rejecting it. The proposals lapse if none of the governing body’s other members second them during the consideration. Lapsed proposals are not put up for vote.

fi: apulaispormestari, sv: biträdande borgmästare

The City Council appoints the Deputy Mayors for the electoral term from among the City Councillors and Deputy Councillors. Each of the Deputy Mayors chairs the division committee of one the City’s four divisions. Each division has its own area of responsibility. The City of Helsinki’s divisions are the Education Division, Urban Environment Division, Culture and Leisure Division, and Social Services and Health Care Division. The Deputy Mayors are full-time elected officials.

fi: eriävä mielipide, sv: avvikande mening

Individual elected officials can issue a dissenting opinion on a matter decided by a governing body if they have made a counter-proposal or voted against the decision. The dissenting opinion is recorded in the meeting minutes.

fi: vanhusneuvosto, sv: äldrerådet

The Elderly Citizens Council is an influencing body established by the City Board in accordance with the Local Government Act. It is tasked with monitoring the City’s operations from the point of view of Helsinki residents of retirement age. The Council submits initiatives and proposals related to the wellbeing and health of senior Helsinki residents, as well as their living environment, housing, physical activities, ability to influence matters, and the services available to them. Read more(Link leads to external service)

fi: luottamushenkilö, sv: förtroendevald

Elected official refers to the City Councillors and Deputy Councillors, the members and deputy members of the municipality’s governing bodies, the members and deputy members of the governing bodies of the municipality’s joint municipal authority, and other individuals chosen for municipal positions of trust.

Elected officials play a key role in municipal decision-making that is based on representative democracy. Individuals chosen as elected officials must meet the general criteria to stand as a candidate in an election, as well as any special criteria that may be required by each governing body. Elected officials of municipalities are defined in the Finnish Local Government Act.

fi: esteellisyys, sv:  jäv

If an individual’s relationship with the matter being considered or the parties concerned compromises the individual’s impartiality, this is considered grounds for disqualification. The grounds for disqualification are laid down in the Local Government Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

A disqualified individual may not participate in discussing the matter or be present when a governing body discusses the matter. Disqualified individuals must notify the governing body concerned of their disqualification and, if necessary, the grounds for the disqualification before the governing body sets out to discuss the matter.

The purpose of the legal provisions on disqualification is to ensure the impartiality of the individuals discussing the matter and the general public’s trust in the flawlessness of the decision-making process.

A member of a governing body, an office holder or another person entitled to be present during the governing body’s meetings can be deemed disqualified during a meeting.

fi: ryhmäaloitteet, sv: gruppmotioner

A councillor group can put forward a group initiative. A group initiative is a way for councillor groups to bring subjects they consider to be special before the City Council. Unlike normal councillors’ initiatives, group initiatives do not require a specific number of signatories. This also allows councillor groups with fewer members to bring the response to their initiative before the City Council. A councillor group may submit four group initiatives during a single council period of office. All the responses received for a group initiative are brought before the City Council.

fi: aloitteet, sv: motioner och initiativ

The initiatives put forward by the City Council include councillors’ initiatives, budget initiatives and group initiatives. A local resident’s initiative is an initiative put forward by a Helsinki resident, while a young people's initiative is an initiative put forward by a Helsinki resident aged 13–17.

fi: vaikuttamistoimielimet, sv: påverkansorgan

Influencing bodies are bodies of the City of Helsinki that are tasked with promoting the ability of the group they represent to influence and participate in matters. The influencing bodies function as hearing and influencing channels through which a particular special group can convey their opinions to Helsinki’s decision-makers.

fi: vireilletulo, sv: anhängiggörande

The decision-making process always starts with the initiation phase. A matter becomes pending when a City official receives a document intended to initiate the matter or when a City official independently starts to prepare the matter for decision-making. Once the matter has become pending, the City official is obligated to consider the matter and issue a decision on it.

A matter may be initiated orally in very exceptional cases, after the matter has been presented to a City official and the information required to initiate the decision-making process has been recorded.

fi: kuntalaisaloite, sv: invånarinitiativ

Helsinki residents can submit initiatives related to the operations of the City of Helsinki in accordance with the Local Government Act.

The City will notify the person who submitted the initiative about any measures carried out based on the initiative. If at least two per cent of the municipality’s eligible voters put forward an initiative on a matter within the City Council’s jurisdiction, the City Council must consider the matter within six months of the matter being initiated.

A proposal for holding a referendum (public vote) can be submitted if it is supported by at least four per cent of the municipality’s eligible voters. The City Council must immediately decide whether the referendum referred to in the initiative will be carried out.

fi: pormestari, sv: borgmästare

The City Council appoints the Mayor for the electoral term from among the City Councillors and Deputy Councillors. The Mayor chairs the City Board and is also tasked with leading the City’s administration, financial management and other operations. The Mayor is a full-time elected official. Helsinki adopted the mayor model in 2017.

fi: palautusehdotus, sv: förslag om återremiss

A motion to refer the matter back means proposing that the matter be returned to the party who prepared it so that they can prepare it again. If such a motion is made and seconded while the matter is being considered, further discussion must be limited to the subject of referring the matter back. If a motion to refer the matter back is seconded, a vote is held to either approve or reject the motion.

fi: hylkäysehdotus,  sv: förslag om förkastande

A motion to reject means proposing that the matter be rejected entirely. If a motion to reject the matter is seconded, a vote is held to either approve or reject the motion.

fi: pöydällepanoehdotus, sv: bordläggningsförslag

A motion to defer the matter means proposing that the consideration of the matter be postponed to a later meeting.

fi: viranhaltija, sv: tjänsteinnehavare

Office holders are employed by a municipality in a public-service employment relationship. The City’s office holders include the City Manager, Heads of Division, service directors, managers and other positions. According to the Constitution of Finland, tasks involving a significant exercise of public powers must be carried out in a public-service employment relationship. Municipalities also employ individuals whose work does not involve the exercise of public powers. Instead of a public-service employment relationship, these individuals have a contractual employment relationship with their employer. If a work position involves the exercise of public powers, a public office needs to be established for the position.

For more information, see the service(Link leads to external service)

fi: otto-oikeus, sv: övertagningsrätt

A higher governing body has the power to reconsider a matter on which a governing body or office holder subordinate to the higher body has made a decision.

For example, the City Board and Mayor have the power to bring a decision made by a governing body or office holder subordinate to the City Board before the City Board, whereas the City Manager can bring a decision made by an office holder subordinate to the City Board before the City Board. Similarly, the division committees and Deputy Mayors have the power to bring a decision made by a governing body or office holder subordinate to the division committee in question before the committee, whereas the Head of Division can bring a decision made by an office holder subordinate to the division committee in question before the committee.

Governing bodies with the power to reconsider a matter can decide in advance not to exercise this power on certain decisions, or they can shorten the time period provided by law for exercising this power. The power to reconsider a matter does not extend to all matters brought before municipal governing bodies. It can only be exercised in matters in which decision-making power has been delegated to lower authorities in accordance with the Local Government Act. Additionally, the power does not extend to various matters concerning permits, such as building permits and other environmental permits, and matters concerning the social welfare and healthcare of individuals and teaching students.

fi: valmistelu, sv: beredning 

Preparation refers to the phase of the decision-making process in which the matter is reviewed before any decisions are made.

The scope and duration of this phase depends on the nature and magnitude of each matter. Matters are presented to Helsinki’s governing bodies by a presenting official, who is responsible for the preparations and proposing a decision to the governing body. The City Board prepares the matters that will be decided by the City Council. This means that all matters brought before the City Council are first considered by the City Board.

The City Council decides on these matters based on the City Board’s proposal, except in certain cases. The City provides its residents with information about pending matters, the plans related to them, the processing of these matters, the decisions made and the effects of these decisions.

fi: kyselytunti, sv: frågestund

A question time lasting roughly an hour is held in conjunction with City Council meetings several times a year. It provides City Councillors with an opportunity to ask the Mayor and Deputy Mayors about matters within their area of responsibility. The Mayor and Deputy Mayors answer two or three questions during each question time.

The City Councillors must submit their questions to the City Council’s chairperson in writing in advance. The chairperson then selects the questions to be asked during the question time, possibly after first discussing the matter with the vice chairs. The chairperson considers how current and significant the questions are when making the decision. The City tries to publish the questions selected for question times in advance in the news articles published about the City Council’s meetings on the Helsinki website.

During the question time, the Mayor or a Deputy Mayors first answers the question posed to them, after which the City Councillors engage in a discussion. The City Council does not make decisions on the matters discussed during question times.

If they wish, the City Councillors can receive a written response to a question that is submitted for a question time but not chosen for discussion. The questions not discussed during question times are not available online.

fi: diaarinumero, sv: diarienummer

The decision-making process always begins with the registration of the matter in the register of administrative matters, at which point the matter is assigned a register number. The unique register number can be used to search for matters in the case management and decision-making system, archives and Decisions service.

fi: toivomusponsi,  sv: hemställningskläm

A member of the City Council may propose that the Council approve a resolution on a matter approved by the Council. Resolutions can be used to guide the implementation of decisions made by the City Council, and ask the City Board to review the matter referred to in the resolution and potentially prepare and submit the matter for decision by the City Council. The resolution must be connected to a matter being considered, and it may not contradict or amend a decision made by the City Council. Seconded resolutions are put up for vote. A resolution must receive at least 43 votes in order to be approved.

fi: äänestykset, sv: röstningar

Governing bodies vote on decisions if a member makes a proposal deviating from the original proposal written in the meeting agenda during the discussion and another member seconds this counter-proposal. A vote is not needed if the governing body is in unanimous support of the deviating proposal.

Votes held by governing bodies follow the parliamentary voting order. Two proposals are voted on at a time. The decision is made based on a simple majority vote, unless the law or the administrative regulations require a qualified majority. Qualified majority refers to a specified level of support that is more than half of the governing body’s members. For example, the City Council will only approve a resolution if it is supported by more than half of the City Councillors, receiving at least 43 votes.

When voting, the members of governing bodies may vote either ‘aye’, ‘nay’ or abstain from voting. If a vote is held between the presenting official’s original proposal and a counter-proposal, those in favour of the original proposal will usually vote aye, while those in favour of the counter-proposal will vote nay. If a vote is held between two original proposals deviating from each other, however, the governing body’s chairperson decides which proposal is to be supported with aye votes and which one with nay votes. When proposed resolutions are put up for vote, voters in favour of the resolution will vote aye.

fi: nuorten aloite, sv: ungdomsinitiativ

A young people’s initiative refers to initiatives submitted by Helsinki residents aged 13–17 on matters related to the City’s operations. A young person can submit an initiative on their own or together with multiple young people. Young people's initiatives may be related to local and city-wide matters, public services available in the young people’s residential area and other topics that affect young people's lives. Young people's initiatives submitted in Helsinki are collected in the young people’s influence system Ruuti.

fi: nuorisoneuvosto, sv: ungdomsrådet 

The Youth Council is an influencing body established by the City Board in accordance with the Local Government Act. Its purpose is to ensure that the voices of young people are heard and that young people can participate and make a difference in the planning, implementation and monitoring carried out by the various divisions in Helsinki.

The Youth Council consists of 30 elected Helsinki residents aged 13–17. Elections are held every two years. The Youth Council submits a statement on young people’s initiatives to the City Council twice a year.