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Mayors quit as many have responsibility but no power

Up to 30 mayors in France are resigning before the end of their mandate with many citing the transfer of their powers to the communauté de communes plus cuts in government grants.

About “20-30” mayors are thought to have handed over their blue, white and red sashes with calculations from the national list of mayors showing the number who have quit since 2014 is 55% higher than in the previous six year term.

Mayors play a key role as the council head, as first magistrate responsible for keeping law and order, as state civil officer res­ponsible for registering births, marriages and deaths and for school maintenance, public spaces and sports grounds.

Elected for six years, they are paid a stipend of €646 a month for communes of under 500 inhabitants, up to €8,650 for the mayor of Paris.

But, having been elected by the commune’s voters, they are held personally responsible for all that happens and part of the stipend goes on insurance as they have been sued for everything from children hurt on playground equipment to refused planning permits.

Now some feel they have responsibility but no power as local council reforms transfer powers to larger communauté de communes (CDC) but also feel weakened by grant cuts, the upcoming loss of income from taxe d’habitation, and a disdain felt from some officials.

One south-western mayor, who asked not to be named, said: “CDC people are often young and spent years in university; many mayors are retirement age, left school at 15 and made a success of their lives.

“They do not like being sneered at by these well-paid youngsters, especially when they know that when something needs doing in the commune, they stay in their offices.

“I was very proud to be elected, but I sometimes think it is not worth it.”

He cited a recent experience when the CDC rescheduled plans to bring fibre optic cable to the village without consulting him, and the lack of co- ordination over laying of water and electricity pipes when the village was having pavements and a cross-roads improved.

Association des Maires de France general secretary Phil­ippe Laurent, the mayor of Paris suburb Sceaux, said mayors had been unhappy for years.

“Mayors still have theoretically a lot of power and still have the responsibility, but not the means to do things after with five years of budget cuts, and transfers to CDCs.”

He said people were astounded when some communes had no candidates for mayor at the 2014 elections and he predicted a similar situation in 2020.

“I hope that the government now realises and will start doing more to support mayors and communes in France.”

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