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Observatory on Local Autonomy
  The Balladur Committee Report


        The predictable death
of one more local government reform
          Upcoming development:
     The Balladur Committee’s proposals
               (March 2009)
- 25th September 2008: the French President announces a new
reform of local government to give local authorities more
- 22nd October 2008: the Balladur Committee is appointed by
President Sarkozy
- 29th October 2008 – 25th February 2009: working session of
the Committee
- 5th March 2009: the Balladur Report is published
            Upcoming development:
       The Balladur Committee’s Proposals
                  (March 2009)

20 proposals to reform the French local government
system about:
- local councils’ organisation and structure
- local elections
- local (public) management
However, there are many obstacles to carry out these reforms
(see slide ‘The Balladur Committee limits’ (4).
    The Balladur Committee’s Proposals

About the number of local government tiers:

   - Creating 9 to 11 metropolises, as in Hungary (Budapest), in
   Latvia (‘republican’ cities and Riga) or in Portugal (metropolitan
   areas of Lisbon and Porto)
   - Increasing the number of joint inter-communal bodies to be
   spread out over the whole of France by 2014 in order to develop
   co-operation between all municipalities
   - Turning existing joint bodies (‘Etablissements publics de
   coopération intercommunale’, EPCIs) into proper local
   authorities’ while each member-commune keeps its own status
    The Balladur Committee’s Proposals

1) The number of local government tiers:
    - No more ‘pays’ (joint authority created by local authorities
    and economic actors, dedicated to economic development) can
    be created

   - A smaller number of Regional Councils: from 26 councils
   (including overseas regions) down to 15 ones

   - Creation of ‘Greater Paris’

What about the French ‘départements’(provinces)?
Are they to be deleted ? No, they’ll ‘survive’!
The Balladur Committee’s Proposals

  2) The reforms of local elections:

 - At ‘département’ and regional levels, councillors will be
 elected simultaneously (what about their wards and the
 voting system?)
 - Councillors in joint bodies (EPCI) will be directly
 elected. In fact, they are elected by and within municipal
 - A special commission will be created to deal with Corsica
 and the overseas territories
The Balladur Committee’s Proposals

3) Local public management:
- Reallocation of responsibilities: general responsibilities for
communes and specific responsibilities for ‘départements’ and
- abolition of central government provincial or regional offices
: authorities : their tasks will be decentralised to local
- the principle of subsidiarity is asserted for joint
intercommunal bodies (EPCIs) but not for communes!
The Balladur Committee’s Proposals

 - Improvement of local finance management: the
 Parliament will assess local authorities’ expenditures
 through annual debates and fix a ‘reasonable’ rate of
 increase for local authorities’ budgets .
 - Reform of the local tax system (and consequently, of the
 national tax system) because the local tax system is too
 opaque and blurred and because local authorities lack any
 real financial autonomy.
    The Balladur Committee’s Limits (4)
Cultural obstacles:
1. French people are too much attached to their own communes
2. ‘Départements’ (provinces) have been inherited from the French
3. Any local government reform should be based on local
   authorities’ willingness and volunteering (nothing can be

Major political obstacles:
1. First of all, the system o accumulation of mandates (and of
2. Lobbies: French local government associations , e.g. Association
   des Régions de France (ARF), Assemblée des Départements de
   France (ADF) and Association des maires de france (AMF)
   Two important bills are still being discussed
              in Parliament (5)

1) A bill to reform ‘départements’ and regions (introduced to
   Parliament in October 2009; still being discussion):
   - One single elected council for two different local authorities
   - Proposed merging regions and ‘départements’ through
       local referendums
   - inter-communal co-operation to be completed by 2014

2) Greater Paris Authority (introduced to the Parliament in
   October 2009; still being discussed) :
   - a special status for Paris area
The problem with the French local
government system is simple and
was once epitomized by Georges

‘In France, the decentralisation
process is so natural that we
organise it in a centralised way!’

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