France/Decentralization: Mayors of Marseille and Aix call for greater powers

Published on 28/11/2023 | La rédaction


Addressing thousands of elected representatives at the Elysée Palace on Wednesday November 22, France's head of state promised "real and bold" decentralization. An opportunity for some mayors to demand more power to act.

Although he did not attend this year's French Mayors' Congress, Emmanuel Macron pledged on Wednesday November 23, in front of a thousand elected officials gathered at the Élysée Palace, to carry out a "real and audacious" decentralization over the coming year, accompanied by an "overhaul" of local taxation. a "real and bold" decentralization, accompanied by an "overhaul" of local taxation.

In his speech, he stressed that sharing competencies "doesn't work. We need to reclarify competences, and put responsibilities behind them with real funding, i.e. funding that has a good dynamic". The head of state also promised "a real status for elected representatives", confirming that a bill would be discussed in 2024.

Decentralization was unsurprisingly at the heart of his address. In early November, Éric Woerth, Renaissance MP and former Budget Minister, was commissioned by Emmanuel Macron to work on this old sea serpent. This six-month mission is to result in a legislative text.

The aim is to make public action more efficient, so that the French "can benefit from public services that meet their needs" . In his letter, the President of the Republic considers that territorial organization has become "too complex", and that the French "don't find their way around".In his letter, the President of the Republic considers that the territorial organization has become "too complex", that the French "can no longer find their way around", and calls for a reduction in the "number of decentralized layers, which today are too numerous".

"Marseille is the perfect example of a city where there are too many institutions, too many elected representatives and where no one understands anything, where we don't know who does what. we don't know who does what", illustrated Benoît Payan, last Saturday on the Vieux-Port, on the occasion of his mid-term report.

"Local chicanery

In an interview with Made in Marseille in early October, the mayor of France's second-largest city (various-left) said he was in favor of reducing the territorial "millefeuille" to " so that there are fewer elected representatives in France, but with more responsibilities", and confided in us that he was working along these lines with government departments.

"We need to give the mayors, not just the mayor of Marseille, the power to get things done, so that when we vote for someone, when we vote for a project, it can be carried out. Since the Head of State is opening a major institutional project, we need to keep things simple: fewer elected representatives, fewer institutions, more power. It's the right time to bring this subject up," adds the mayor.

And for good reason, Marseille claims to be hampered by the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis in its efforts to advance its projects. For several months now, there has been an incessant ping-pong between institutions of different political persuasions, each passing the buck while claiming to be extending a helping hand to the other. The backdrop is the upcoming municipal elections in 2026.

Within the framework of the 3DS law - for "differentiation", "decentralization", "deconcentration" and "simplification " - the Metropolis and the City had nevertheless managed to reach an agreement, following the President of the Republic, who made state aid for the Marseille en grand plan conditional on an end to "local squabbles", with the Metropole also having to undergo a profound institutional overhaul.

An agreement sealed by the vote of their respective assemblies on the management of certain metropolitan competencies that directly concern the city, such as roads and waste management (which does not include waste collection), and an agreement on the financial aspects. The Mayor of Marseille had appointed two of his deputies, Perrine Prigent and Christine Juste, to arbitrate these two competencies directly with the Metropole. But the two women are disappointed with the agreement, believing that they have no real decision-making power.

"The Metropole must move

Benoît Payan first advocates a thorough reform of the Metropole, "stillborn" in his words, "a simplification of competencies, because this metropole is too big (92 communes)". She believes that this is one of the prerequisites for revitalizing Marseille, where several billion euros have already been earmarked by the French government as part of Marseille en Grand.

Schools, mobility, urban renewal... "If we don't go all the way with institutional reform, everything will fall through. The Metropole has to move. Otherwise, everything we're doing is pointless", he asserted in our interview.

As soon as she was elected in September 2021, Sophie Joissains was quick to point out the dysfunctions of the Metropole, which "doesn't work", adding that "for the first time, the Metropole is not working".for the first time in centuries, we have common interests at the metropolitan level" with the City of Marseille.

"The creation of metropolises has further concentrated power".

In an article published in Le Monde, entitled "Let's give mayors the power to act", the mayor (UDI) of Aix-en-Provence, Sophie Joissains, once again castigates the organization within the Metropole. " For the past fifteen years, contradictory laws have been piling up, and the perimeters of regions and metropolises have been expanding without any anthropological reality and in a total confusion of 'who does what'," she writes. The creation of metropolises has further concentrated powers.

In the text, Sophie Joissains also proposes legislative changes. "Combining the presidency of the Métropole and the Département reinforces the confusion, with communes receiving aid from the Département and a solidarity grant from the Métropole. This situation is a potential source of conflicts of interest".

This is precisely the position in which Martine Vassal, President of both the Département and the Métropole Aix-Marseille-Provence, finds herself. " It would therefore be prudent to enshrine in law the impossibility of combining the presidency of a metropolis with that of a departmental or regional executive," she argues.

She also proposes transforming metropolises into metropolitan clusters, "more flexible, agile structures that are more respectful of local identities". An idea already put forward by her predecessor Maryse Joissains. A rebel in chief, the former LR mayor had fought hard against the creation of a metropolis with Marseille, which she nicknamed the "monstropolis" even calling for its dissolution, with the arrival of the Macron government in 2017.

A Department-Region merger

MP Lionel Royer-Perreaut (Renaissance) also believes that the "mal-n&e acute;e" Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolis is "still suffering" . For him, its disappearance is not a taboo subject "as long as we set the objective of two or three maximum strata" . In a long interview, he confided to us his admiration for successful models of integration, such as that of the Alsatians. "They merged Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin into a single department, and now they're going to merge the department with the region to form a single Alsace collectivity".

Benoît Payan also favors a Department-Region merger. The Départements, which have mainly social responsibilities, are regularly threatened with extinction. In 2014, Manuel Valls proposed wiping departmental councils off the map. Four years earlier, a law planned to replace general and regional councillors with territorial councillors. This provision was eventually abandoned before being taken up again by Emmanuel Macron.

In Bouches-du-Rhône, another merger had agitated the political ecosystem: that of the Métropole with the Département. This aborted project is no longer on the agenda.

Moreover, the mission on decentralization does not aim to abolish certain local authorities, in particular the départements, as Éric Woerth explained at the second Rencontres de Saint-Denis on Friday November 17: "I clarified things by saying that this was a mission that should lead to proposals for more decentralization, but also more responsibility for those who exercise the competencies.and "simpler standards", said Nicolas Sarkozy's former minister.

This was a way of allaying the concerns of some departmental council chairmen, who were meeting in Strasbourg from November 8 to 10 for their annual conference, convinced that their local authorities are being targeted. The mission of the former mayor of Chantilly (Oise) should lead to proposals for reform "at the beginning of May".


Did you like this article? Share it ...


Leave a comment

Your comment will be published after validation.