Helge André Njåstad (born 5 June 1980) is a Norwegian politician for the Progress Party. He was elected to the Parliament of Norway from Hordaland in 2013 where he serves as the chair of the Standing Committee on Local Government and Public Administration. He was mayor of Austevoll from 2003 to 2013.
Njåstad became a member of the Progress Party in 1997. Two years later, he was elected to the Austervoll municipal council, benefitting from cumulative voting. The Austervoll municipal election in 2003 turned out to be a great success for the Progress party which increased their share of the votes from 19,6% in 1999 to 33.2%. A cooperation with the Centre Party and Christian Democratic Party led to Njåstad becoming mayor. He had been nominated in second spot on the local party's ballot, but cumulative voting again showed him the party's most popular figure. Aged 23, he became Norway's youngest mayor. He was the second mayor ever from the Progress party; the first one being Terje Søviknes from the nearby Os municipality.
The municipality of about 4,800 inhabitants and a large fishing industry and much private wealth was at the time struggling with heavy debt and had been on the ROBEK list for municipalities with negative budget balances since the list was introduced in 2001. Njåstad campaigned on a platform of bringing more positivity to the community. During Njåstad's mayoralty, the budget was balanced, including many cuts in appropriations for schools, child care and elder care, but most decisions had broad consensus. The municipality was taken off the ROBEK list in 2012 after the budget deficit had been turned into a surplus.
Njåstad received credit for turning the local economy around during his 10 years of service. and was voted municipality profile of the year for 2012 by Kommunal Rapport for his successful handling of the economy and having creating new optimism in Austervoll.
In 2013, the municipality privatised all elderly care services. The municipality still has all financial responsibilities for the care but all institutions are run by the privately owned Swedish company Alaris . 170 employees were transferred from the public sector to Alaris. The privatisation had broad consensus in the municipality council, but the two Labour Party members voted against it and the unions protested, fearing that the privatisation will lead to reduced pensions and other working conditions for the caregivers. The municipality was the first and only in Norway to privatise all elder care.
At the party's congress in 2011, he was elected to the party's Executive Board. He got 200 of 219 votes cast, which was the highest number of the four candidates, of which three were elected.
In the Norwegian parliamentary election, 2013, Njåstad was nominated in second spot on Hordaland Progress Party's ballot. The party got 15.1% of the votes in the election, back 7.2% from the election in 2009. The party lost two seats, but the second seat to Njåstad was secured. In Austevoll, the Progress party got 25.5% which was back 8.8% from 2009.
Njåstad was mentioned as a possible Minister for the fisheries in the Solberg's Cabinet by several newspapers. In the parliament he was elected chair of the Standing Committee on Local Government and Public Administration in October 2013.
Njåstad has argued that Austevoll's full privatisation of the elderly care could be a model for the whole country. He believes the rights of welfare clients are better served when the municipality's sole responsibility is to assign welfare services and control the quality of it, as he thinks the control function suffers when both the controllers and those providing services are public employees and there may not be enough distance between them.
He cites transportation and fisheries policies as main priorities. He favours a liberalisation of the fishery policy, including perpetual fishing quotas in line with the system introduced by Conservative Minister of Fisheries Svein Ludvigsen but reversed by Labour minister Helga Pedersen.
Like his party, Njåstad has voiced strong opposition to toll roads. During the election campaign in 2013, he participated in an election stunt where a mock toll road was set up and campaigners for the Progress party gave out small sums of money to protest the system where drivers are required to pay. The stunt was criticised by a Workers' Youth League member for being an attempt of buying voters, but Njåstad claimed it was no different from other parties handing out small effects, like the roses typically handed out by the Labour Party.