Accueil > Public Institutions
Local Government

France currently has almost 37,000 local government bodies, of which 36,800 administer municipalities, or communes, 100 territorial Dйpartements, and 26 entire regions. France’s overseas territories, special-status local authorities (Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Mayotte) and Corsica all have specific forms of local government.

Local authorities are distinct legal entities (like the State) responsible for exercising general powers over circumscribed geographical areas.

There are currently only three categories of local government authority: municipalities or communes, Dйpartements and, since 1982, regions.

Status and core principles

Firstly, the status of local authorities is essentially legislative in character: this means that only the legislature (and therefore Parliament) has the powers over that status. In other words, the executive branch (the President of the Republic and central government) has no power in this sphere to amend the status of local authorities.

This principle stems directly from the Constitution, which places "the fundamental principles of the administrative independence, powers and resources of local government authorities" firmly in the legal domain. Logically, the Constitution also reserves for the legislature the power to create new categories of local authority.

In addition, local government is protected by an important constitutional guarantee — that of administrative independence. This means that while the scope of their powers is defined by other authorities (Parliament), they can exercise those powers independently: it is for this reason that each such authority has an executive branch and an assembly — both deriving from local elections based on universal franchise — which give practical effect to the principle of independent management.

Whereas the councillors of municipal, departmental and regional authorities debate local affairs (notably those relating to the budget), executive power is held also by officers elected from among the members of the various assemblies: mayors in the case of municipal authorities, the President of the Conseil gйnйral at the level of the Dйpartement, and the President of the Conseil rйgional for regional authorities.

Lastly, a number of limits are placed on the administrative independence of local authorities: these relate largely to the control exercised over them by central government.

Some forms of control (prior approval of decisions, powers to cancel certain measures, or to replace the local authority in certain circumstances) were weakened, or even eliminated in some instances, when the decentralization laws came into force, in 1982 and 1983. However, other, less direct, types of control still exist, such as the allocation of subsidies to local authorities and the power of a representative of central government (the Prйfet) to determine the legality of some of their measures.

Lastly, since 1982 the accounts of local authorities have been subject to verification by regional audit offices, the Chambres rйgionales des comptes, which form a financial judiciary headed by the Cour des Comptes, the national Court of Auditors.

The areas of competence of local authorities

The powers and duties of municipal authorities, or communes, as laid down by the General Code of Local Government Law, are extremely varied (some optional, others mandatory). In particular, every municipal authority has powers in the following areas, among others: water supplies, sewage and waste management, public libraries, municipal museums and markets. Municipal authorities also contribute to certain services provided by central government, such as education. Lastly, since 1982, they also have powers to act in the social and economic sphere (grants and subsidies to companies, for example).

The main beneficiaries of the transfer of power brought about by decentralization in 1982-1983 are the Dйpartements. Firstly, they have retained their two longest-standing responsibilities, social welfare (for the most disadvantaged members of the community) and roads (principally the construction and fitting out of road systems). Additionally, since 1982 they have had new powers, essentially in the areas of housing and the environment, transport, health and education (secondary schools, or collиges). Finally, since decentralization, Dйpartements, like municipal authorities, have been given powers to intervene in the local economy.

Regional authorities form the most recent category of local government, created in principle in 1982 but actually set up only in 1986 (following the first regional elections). Since that time they have seen a gradual expansion of their field of action. Currently, they have become important centres of decision-making and action in terms of regional planning, education (secondary schools — lycйes), occupational training, transport, culture and research.




Return at back webpage

Imprimer ce document Envoyer cette page par mиl Retour haut de page Mis а jour le 23/11/2000 @Webmestre - Info йditeur Rambler's Top100   


Hosted by uCoz