INTERVIEW. For Dominique Bussereau, the Departments “are ready to do more things”

Dominique Bussereau, President of the Assembly of Departments of France, analyzes the ballot departmental elections. He estimates that “For the departmental, we are not fed up with existing teams”.

This strong abstention, how do you explain it?

In some municipalities, candidates or mayors beat the drum well and raised the participation to more than 40%. But these are the exceptions that confirm the rule of strong abstention.

To explain it, we can take a positive version and a negative version. The positive version is to say that most of the time our fellow citizens, as we see in the surveys that the Departments regularly do on their image, believe that their communities are rather well managed.

It can mean that they do not want to put everything in the air and fire one or the other who would have behaved badly, as sometimes happens in municipal governments. For the departmental, we have no phenomenon of fed up with the existing teams.

The negative version is that we have a rather disoriented France after this year of pandemic, a government which has not decentralized and which has therefore not put forward the capacities of the Departments and Regions …

And then, traditionally, departmental elections are not the elections with the best turnout.

Is it because of a slightly old-fashioned image of the department or a lack of knowledge of its skills?

The knowledge of who does what is quite limited in our country. When you collect the RSA, it is via CAF or MSA, so you don’t have to think it’s from the Department. A lot of people don’t know it.

There is currently a fine instrument of departmental skills in your region; it’s the Tour de France. It circulates at 95% on departmental roads which are previously prepared and upgraded by the services of the Department. This is the example of a major event, the most popular in France, whose main partnership, outside the stopover towns, is with the Departments. But who knows ?

Among the skills, we forget social action. However, this is a major area …

If we have to summarize the competences of the Departments, we will say that there is, on the one hand, everything relating to territorial solidarity: roads, aid to municipalities, sport, culture, tourism, installation of fiber (this is the biggest project of all the French departments and which changes the daily life of the French), the fire and rescue services…, and on the other hand the social.

This is an area with a major increase in spending. Thus, the RSA has unfortunately resumed its increase for a year. I am afraid that the consequences of the crisis in the fall on small businesses will cause the number of RSA beneficiaries to increase further.

In addition, the population is aging, so more personalized autonomy allowances are paid. Disability is being treated better and better and the disability compensation benefit is increasing. So the cost of our social skills is on the rise.

You fought for more decentralization; do you still stick with this ambition?

I remain mostly on my hunger. Even if the “4D” law, for decentralization, differentiation, deconcentration and decomplexification, presented to the Council of Ministers on May 12, 2021, must bring some improvements, it is a pity that President Macron and his two Prime Ministers have not made progress in decentralization while the State has weakened at the departmental level.

What we would like is to have more control over the regional health agencies (ARS) which have become small ministries of health at the regional level, with the same shortcomings as at the national level.

We are ready to do more things in the educational field (by taking up school medicine for example). So many areas that the State does not want to let go for fear of union pressure. Or by conservatism. Or by centralism.

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