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Number of regions to be slashed

An MP charged with helping save money and simplify says the government aims for around 15 regions down from 22

THE French regions will be cut from 22 to around 15, says an MP charged by President Hollande with helping simplify France.

Speaking on RMC radio yesterday Thierry Mandon, who will help lead a “simplification council” President Hollande plans to set up, said: “The basic idea is to have around 15 – so, seven fewer of them, which is after all a reduction of 30%”.

Commentators think Mr Hollande may have Germany’s 15 Lander in mind.

President Hollande said in his speech to journalists on Tuesday that France must simplify and strengthen local government to be more competitive and efficient and that “the number of the regions might change”.

A broad reform of local and regional government will aim to simplify the roles of local councils at all levels so there is less “doubling up”, he said.

The president said some of France’s 101 departments could merge with each other or with one of the 14 métropôles (new intercommunal bodies) being set up centred on large cities, of which the first, for Nice, was created in 2011 and the rest are due to be established in 2015 or 2016.

Mr Mandon singled out departments in the “petite couronne” surrounding Paris, which might merge with the capital. He also suggested the metropolitan area of Nice and the department of the Alpes-Maritimes could merge.

Hollande suggested financial incentives could be made available to encourage local authorities to merge. This was taken up by Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who said on iTélé yesterday he would propose “a bonus” for those that do and there would be less money for those that do not.

However Reform and Decentralisation Minister Marylise Lebranchu, stressed today nothing had been decided yet, in particular as to the number of regions that would go. “I’ve spoken with the president and prime minister and we’re not going to go at them with an axe,” she said.

The aim was to “encourage” mergers. The government would introduce legislation by May and it would include increased powers for regional councils, Ms Lebranchu said.

These changes accompany wider economic reforms announced this week by Hollande which aim to reduce the public deficit, revive growth and cut unemployment.

As part of this there is to be a thorough review of all public spending including that of local authorities.

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