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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les maires se rebiffent

by Sebastien Crepel

The Mayors Rebel

Translated Monday 8 December 2008, by Alison Billington

Elected representatives.

On the eve of the 91st congress of the Association of the Mayors of France (AMF) which was brought to a close yesterday in Paris, the villages’specialist review, the ’Gazette’, candidly observed that the congress was opened ’with a sense of strain between the association of elected representatives and the government.

In addition to finances and local tax systems, numerous reasons for concern emerged. ‘Public services threatened by “clashing” of reforms instituted at a particularly rapid pace, minimum reception services in schools judged ‘impossible to put into operation’, so many subjects which really fuelled the report on the congress’ discussions.

The supporters’ disagreements tend to fade greatly in the wake of the elected representatives’ united protest. They are pressured by the economic and financial crisis which puts them on the front line to answer to the needs of their citizens. Because of this, 56% of mayors condemn the restrictions on grants in line with inflation, according to a survey by IFOP, the French Institute of Public Opinion for the AMF. According to the institution, 63% are against the placing of ’grants’ in the budget for VAT compensation funds as the 2009 budget forecast. It is a sleight of hand for this money is not really a grant, but rather the repayment of a sum of money that communities advance to the State by paying their VAT. In consequence, the more a town invests, the more repayment of VAT will increase to the detriment of genuine grants to keep the overall ceiling of growth of the budget at 2%. A fact which has not escaped the notice of the mayors. They have no hesitation in hauling the government over the coals. The legislation over the minimum reception service (SMA) in schools at times of strikes is judged ‘impossible to put into effect’ by elected representatives on all sides. The 4,500 elected representatives symbollically walked out of the room on Wednesday at the instigation of the PCF or French Communist Party Mayor of Saint-Martin-d’Heres (Isere), Rene Proby. Having hissed Francois Fillon, they were protesting against the legal action taken against seven of them in Proby’s area.

On Tuesday, Francois Fillon,, on the other hand, was forced to promise on the subject of the fate of sub-prefectures, ‘we will not abolish sub-prefectures in rural areas.’ This was at the forum of the Mayors’ congress. Every single political camp was annoyed over this. ‘We feel that the town is belittled’, said a worried Jean-Luc Reitzer, recently, UMP or right wing Mayor of Altkirch, a Haut Rhone sub-prefecture which has lost its magistrate’s court, its commercial court and its industrial arbitration court one after another, the ’Gazette’ reports. ‘About thirty average towns have been suffering shock treatment over the last 18 months’, summarises the PS or Socialist Party Mayor of Saint-Die, Christian Pierret for his part.

Confronted with the problem of the drain of public services, other elected representatives no longer hesitate to put harrowing, ideological reappraisals into operation. The situation over the postal service is this. ‘Our neighbours have often gone too far. They have not been able to protect the basic essentials of public services. Today, the French postal service is the best Europe has to offer’, reckons the UMP or right wing Mayor-Senator of Vaux-sous-Aubigny (Haute- Marne), Charles Guere. He proposes considering the mission of the postal service as ‘sacred territory’. ’Without this, France will be divided in two and very rural villages will find themselves excluded.’

But as Maud Tellet, Communist Mayor of Champs-sur-Marne, elected to the offices of the AMF, with the PC or French Communist M.P. Andre Chassaigne announces, ‘Our first concern is financial because of the relinquishing by the State of all its duties of solidarity and the enquiry into savings on public expenses which hinders all public services, both local and national, even when they are the best effector of social cohesion.’ Likewise, the replacement of the tax on self-employed professionals (the TP) has not been instituted although its coming abolition has been confirmed by the Prime Minister. ’We are in total confusion’ regrets the elected representative of Moselle while last year’s promise to organise a ’conference on local taxes’ which was demanded by the AMF was not followed up or put into effect. Nor was there a response to other causes of concern enumerated by UMP or right-winger Jacques Pelissard, also re-elected president of the AMF. Such causes as those regarding national public services, housing, or even the military and hospital redevelopments. Andre Laignel, General Secretary for the AMF and PS or Socialist Party Mayor of Issoudun denounced ’a three ’D’ offensive’ on the part of the government, ‘” D” for denigration, disengagement and dismantle’.

Sebastien Crepel

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