In an opinion piece published on 3 June in the regional daily press, the President of the Republic announced his intention to decrease the number of metropolitan regions from 22 to 14 and set the objective of a constitutional reform providing for the abolition of the General Council in 2020.
After the major decentralisation laws of 1982 and the introduction of the decentralised Republic into the Constitution, the aim is now to transform the territorial architecture of the Republic for decades to come. "Our territorial organisation has become outdated and the strata have accumulated", explained François Hollande in the interview.
Simplify and clarify
Simplify and clarify the territorial organisation "so that everyone knows who decides, who finances and using which resources", this is the aim of the reform in which the President of the Republic wants to involve all of the political families. The challenge is to offer a better quality of service and to lessen the burden on taxpayers while ensuring financial solidarity between local authorities according to their level of wealth.
€10 billion of savings will be made within 5 to 10 years by eliminating overlapping responsibilities and duplications, according to the estimate by André Vallini, Minister of State for Regional Reform, following the Council of Ministers on 3 June.
Inter-communality: a structure based on proximity and efficient local action
France has 36,700 communes and the entire country is covered by inter-communal bodies. However, these different-sized inter-communal bodies do not have enough resources to support major projects. The proposed reform thus aims to develop and continue the integration process within these communes in order to scale-up these inter-communal groups. "Each of them should comprise at least 20,000 inhabitants as of 1 January 2017, compared to the 5,000 today. Adjustments will be scheduled for the mountain areas and the sparsely populated areas", said the Head of State.
14 new regions compared to the current 22
Major actors in territorial development, the regions will be strengthened with the decrease from 22 to 14. This new territorial map takes into account the desires for cooperation already announced by the elected representatives and will be subject to parliamentary debate.
Over time, within a European scope, "the regions will be able to construct territorial strategies". In the future, "they will be the only authority responsible for supporting companies and leading training and employment policies, and for intervening in transport matters, regional trains and buses as well as roads, airports and ports. They will manage the secondary schools and colleges. They will be in charge of development and major infrastructures", the President of the Republic explained, before adding: "they will have their own dynamic financial resources. And they will be managed by reasonably-sized assemblies. Which means fewer elected representatives".
Abolition of the General Councils by 2020
Another component of the reform: the General Councils will be gradually phased out due to the creation of larger regions and the strengthening of inter-communal bodies. In order to best ensure this transition, elected representatives will be largely left to take the initiative.
"The objective must be a constitutional revision providing for the abolition of the General Council in 2020. (…) By then, the elections for the departmental council will be set for the same day as those for the future key regions in autumn 2015. With the voting system voted in by the law of 17 May 2013", explained François Hollande.
The territorial reform will be subject to two draft laws presented at the Council of Ministers on 18 June, before being examined by the Senate, the Prime Minister said on BFM-TV and RMC. The first text "reconfigures" the map of the regions and the second will define "the regions' responsibilities, regarding the increasing power of inter-communal bodies".