Consulting citizens to improve tax plans

How the Dutch government engaged citizens in a constructive debate about a road tax reform using Synthetron.


The Dutch government wanted to use citizen consultation to understand how best to reform road tax. It was a controversial subject where a simple referendum could miss the best solution. They needed to engage people in constructive debate and they wanted outcomes that would show a way forward.


The government decided to work with the ANWB – the motorists’ organisation. All ANWB members were invited to one of 6 Synthetron sessions. And through their membership they listened to 6000 citizens. Because the Ministry of Transport agreed in advance to be guided by the outcomes the sessions had a lot of credibility. Everybody was talking about them so they were well attended.


A referendum would have thrown out the changes. But people agreed with the idea of the change and explicitly said so. They explained that they did not agree with the way it had been set up though. Everybody wanted a fair and easy to use solution. For example, they didn’t want traffic to divert onto rural roads. And they didn’t want to lose out to any other groups of drivers.

The people showed the ministry the way forward so new policies could be developed.