"The State and local authorities must act as partners in this crisis"
Thursday, May 14, 2020
More than ever, local authorities are on the front line** to meet the challenges of deconfinement. How can we organize ourselves to maintain the "backbone" of the country's more than 500,000 local elected officials? [David Carmier (https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-carmier-906b8149/), deputy director of the cabinet of Mr. Sébastien Lecornu, Minister in charge of local authorities, deciphers the issues that local authorities are facing today. He gives us his vision, in the short and long term, of the role of the different actors of the territory.
Through a series of interviews, Fluicity lets you discover "The voices of democracy". The voices of those who embody it, and the ways in which democracy itself lives, questions itself and reinvents itself.
How would you sum up the mission of the Ministry of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities?
David Carmier, Deputy Director of Sebastien Lecornu's cabinet
This ministry is quite recent since it dates back to 2018 and the President of the Republic's desire to put territorial issues at the heart of his five-year term.
The first part concerns "territorial communities". We could summarize this mission in one sentence: Give local elected officials the means - legal, human and financial - to implement their own policies. While France chose decentralization in 1982, the State is there to set a framework, not to decide in place of local elected officials on competences that belong to them. For example, on the subject of local democracy, we offer possibilities (citizen consultation, recourse to referendum...) but we do not substitute ourselves for the local elected representatives in their decisional power. And in the end, whether it is the State or a local authority, it is the same for the citizen: only the quality of the public service counts!
The second component is "territorial cohesion". France is experiencing territorial fractures reflecting geographical, economic and social inequalities. Our objective is to strengthen the unity and cohesion of these territories. The implementation of certain national programs (Action Cœur de ville, Territoires d'industrie, Plan France Très Haut Débit, etc.) contributes directly to this. This is also the case for the city policy which, with the mobilization of the ANRU, is making it possible to renovate many neighborhoods and improve the lives of their inhabitants.
Finally, this ministry has the particularity of having a very large interministerial dimension. There is hardly a policy implemented by the State that does not directly or indirectly concern the communities. Culture, sports, social affairs, the economy, urban planning, agriculture... These are shared competencies and our role is to ensure that all ministries integrate this territorial dimension into their decisions.
How do we maintain territorial cohesion in times of crisis? How can we ensure the democratic continuity of communities?
First, it is important to remember that the Covid-19 crisis did not put the democratic life of our country on hold. The law of March 23, 2020, extended the mandates of elected municipal officials** "in office" to allow them to actively participate in the management of this crisis. Moreover, the ordinance of April 1, 2020 allowed them to meet by videoconference, which was a first, allowing deliberative assemblies to continue to function without having to meet physically.
Then, despite the confinement and its restrictions, the essential local public services (waste collection, drinking water supply, sanitation management...) continued to be provided in remarkable conditions. We owe this to the unfailing commitment of our 35,000 mayors and more than 500,000 local elected officials. Some people consider that there are too many of them, but it is on the contrary an opportunity to have been able to multiply their energies in this context of health crisis.
Finally, the crisis has disrupted the entire administrative ecosystem. To help local elected officials in this exceptional context, the entire decentralized State was put into motion under the authority of prefects and sub-prefects. We believe very much in the "prefect-mayor" pair, which are two "figures of proximity and authority" who belong to the same public power. Moreover, the fact of having a strong prefectural culture makes it possible to deploy national decisions rapidly at the local level, while taking into account the specificities of each territory. In this crisis, The State and local authorities must act as partners.
35,000 mayors and more than 500,000 local elected officials... Some consider that there are too many of them, but it is on the contrary an opportunity to have been able to multiply their energies in this context of health crisis.
Read: "It is essential that communities have the means to act!" The voice of democracy by Sébastien Prevot, cabinet director in Saran.
We are seeing a strong commitment from citizens during this crisis. What role will they play in tomorrow's territorial strategy?
We must not oppose citizens to elected officials, nor direct democracy to representative democracy. We need the mobilization of everyone, the crisis has proved it Citizen initiatives have abounded in the framework of the confinement in all fields and notably that of solidarity: support for the elderly, social actions to fight against isolation or precariousness... France is a political people and I want to prove it by the extraordinary dynamism of our associative fabric.
The action of democratically elected local officials, whose role is indispensable for managing services and implementing public policies, is complementary to the engagement of citizens. What is certain is that more and more citizens are willing to get involved - in less demanding and more punctual forms such as citizen mobilizations or signing petitions. This is a very good thing! We can only encourage it.
Comment favoriser cette collaboration entre collectivités territoriales et citoyens ?
There are many tools that have been developed over the years: consultations, referendums, participatory budgets, the creation of neighborhood committees, public inquiry... In a 2018 report, the National Assembly also recalled that the means of participation were numerous and that the main issue was more their appropriation by elected officials and citizens.
Citizen participation is not so much a question of law as a question of culture. And we can see that things are evolving positively: the number of municipalities using participatory budgets is increasing, while many mayors are deciding to use digital devices](https://get.flui.city/blog/animer-demarches-participatives-impliquer-les-citoyens/) to better involve the population.
Finally, on the more specific subject of participatory budgets, public inquiries or citizen consultations, this can only work effectively if the citizens are there. The participation issue is essential for the final decision to be taken by the greatest number and not the result of lobbying by minority groups.
Citizen participation is not so much a question of law as a question of culture.
Speaking of democratic evolution, how do you imagine the role of the mayor tomorrow? The "Commitment and Proximity" law aimed to "strengthen the powers" of the mayor. Can you tell us more?
[The "Commitment and Proximity" Law (https://www.cohesion-territoires.gouv.fr/loi-engagement-et-proximite-guide-pratique) was promulgated on December 27, at the end of the Great National Debate and the President of the Republic's "tour of the mayors". In contrast to a movement of more than twenty years, the ambition was to "put the commune back at the heart of the Republic" and to reinforce its capacity for action. Our 35,000 municipalities are a source of wealth and the mayor is certainly the figure of proximity and authority best known and respected by our fellow citizens.
The detailed measures contribute to these objectives: putting the commune back at the heart of the intermunicipality so that this couple is more efficient, increasing the prerogatives of the mayor (especially in matters of policing), reinforcing the rights of elected officials municipal (especially in matters of training) so that they are better armed, etc. Measures have also been adopted in favour of young workers to help make municipal councils even more representative of society.
The "proximity and commitment" law aims to put the commune back at the heart of the intermunicipal system so that this pairing is more effective.
In a word, we wanted to put the commune back at the center of the Republic** and give our fellow citizens the desire to get involved. The crisis we are going through today and the return of the "prefect-mayor" couple seem to confirm this evolution.
*David Carmier is Deputy Director of the cabinet of Mr. Sébastien Lecornu, Minister in charge of local authorities. He is also deputy mayor of Sartrouville (Yvelines) and community advisor to the Saint Germain Boucle de Seine agglomeration community (CASGBS). Finally, he teaches public law and public finance at Sciences Po.
The voices of democracy" will continue to be heard next week, with that of Arnaud de Champsavin, consultant in citizen participation and digital projects (DINUM, ETALAB, DITP). See you soon !