l’essentielAt the beginning of the weekend dedicated to literature in the town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot, a debate arose between Mayor Guillaume Lepers, festival sponsor Franz-Olivier Giesbert, and Arnaud Benedetti regarding decentralization and the role of local elected officials in the political landscape.
The first debate of this 2023 edition of « Villeneuve se livre » was supposed to focus on « culture and rurality ». Let’s just say that the debaters somewhat went beyond the scope to concentrate more on decentralization, the role of politics in rural areas, and also, on a national level, the declining cultural level among politicians. To discuss this, there were well-placed individuals due to their positions. Starting with the mayor of Villeneuve, Guillaume Lepers, who referred to himself as the « mayor of a small isolated town » and talked about his motivations for leaving a managerial position in a large company in the Lot valley to enter the political arena. The mayor has no regrets about this transition from the private to the public sector, quite the opposite. « Masochism? » teased the debate moderator Dominique Monnoyeur, the director of cultural affairs for the city, who quickly gave the floor to the other two guests, two keen observers of public life for several decades.
Les gens se désintéressent que le conservatoire soit communautaire ou que ce soit le théâtre municipal.
Starting with Arnaud Benedetti, author and professor with roots in Lot-et-Garonne, who has published a book titled « How do politicians die? », where he attempts to understand this decline of politics. An omnipresent « State that has shaped the history of France », which the people target for any complaint. For him, decentralization is the fundamental issue. « The major subject is that the French are attached to their local elected officials. The real question is that of administrative complexity. » The mayor of Villeneuve agrees with this observation, adding to illustrate the cultural aspect: « Whether the conservatory is communal or the municipal theater, people don’t care! They want good things. » The construction of larger regions in 2015 was a step in this direction. « But the experience has been unconvincing, with a technocratic approach to their construction, » argues Arnaud Benedetti. After a moment of silence, Franz-Olivier Giesbert used his sharp formulas to demonstrate « the contempt of the political class for the territories. »
The elimination of the « shameful » housing tax also marks the end of the accumulation of mandates, which has shifted the relationship between Paris and the provinces. « We need to return to accumulation, it is one of the keys to reinventing policies, » emphasizes the writer and journalist, who advocates for the emergence of « new local barons who hold their territory. » Not everyone may be pleased with this… Like Arnaud Benedetti, even though he admits that « today, politics does not attract the best, with rare exceptions. » Whereas it used to be a path of excellence. For him, only « true decentralization » will prevent a reversal of this non-accumulation measure and allow local elected officials to « move towards resources. »