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Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Metropoles: France's New City Regions

Across Europe the twin challenges of demographics and the recession caused by the financial crisis mean public sector reform is high on the political agenda.
France has moved quickly to make substantial changes to local government. They are reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13 and on January 1st 10 new city Regions were set up. Two more will follow a year later. It is claimed that this is the "first major reorganisation since Napoleon".

While the previous Sarkozy government also looked at reform nothing actually changed the present government has moved quickly to implement change. The French President, Francois Hollande, claims this new system will save €12.2B. Local communes do continue to exist, the new city regions (Metropoles) provide a way for them to work together to provide services for the entire Metropole area. Over the next few years further powers will be devolved to these authorities. These include economic development, housing, water and skills. The three biggest cities will also gain powers over tourism, culture , agriculture and international relations. The two “super metroples” which come into place next year are Grand Paris and Aix-Marseille-Provence. Grand Paris will include at least three of the current suburban department s and possibly more. It is hoped this will increase investment in these suburban areas.

The plans weren't universally welcomed when first announced, for example those in relatively rich Alsace didn't appear keen to merge with Lorraine, where the decline of steel and mining industries has had a severe impact on the economy. The plans for new regions were though passed in December so the merger will go ahead.

Interestingly while many in Scotland highlight the strengths of the localism of countries like France the French are actually are becoming more centralised. Still a long way from our increasingly centralised system though

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