Consolidation of France’s complicated local government system

With effect from 1st January 2016, France’s 22 regions will be consolidated into 13 with a view to streamlining the complicated system of local government, comprising regions, departments and communes (parishes).

townhall

With local government’s three and sometimes four tier organisation, particularly in rural areas, the overlapping powers and responsibilities of the councils means that is sometimes unclear who is responsible for what; and with an annual budget of €250 billion something needed to be done.

Like most things in France, it will be difficult to make a ‘clean sweep’ so changes will be made in incremental steps.

France accounts for 40% of all the communes in Europe, 90% of which have less than 2,000 inhabitants; a statistic that is unparalleled anywhere else in the developed world.

The regions are generally very positive about the changes as the existing regional councils are not sufficiently large or powerful enough to become engines for economic growth.

This has been debated at length and finally parliament has agreed to a rationalisation of the existing structure by merging regions as follows:

Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine
Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes
Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes
Burgundy and France-Comté
Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées
Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy
Lower Normandy and Upper Normandy

Regions

The names for the new regions have not yet been decided, but for the time being the above will be used.

Also to be determined is where the new ‘super-regions’ will the base their capital. The most likely contender for Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées is Toulouse but the mayor of Montpellier, the current administrative centre of Languedoc-Roussillon, is not prepared to give up without a fight.

Toulouse is the larger city and is currently the capital city of the south-western French department of Haute-Garonne as well as of the Midi-Pyrénées region.

Apart from the prestige of being the primary city in one of France’s new regions there is an economic impact. The new capitals will have more administrative jobs because of the implementation of regional council services which would then have a knock-on effect on businesses and the local economy.

Toulouse lies on the banks of the river Garonne and is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in France (after Paris, Lyon and Marseille) mainly thanks to the aerospace.

It was the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom in the 5th Century and the capital of the province of Languedoc in the late Middle Ages and early modern period. So, it would appear that it comes full circle.