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Merger into Occitanie has seen costs rise, not drop

France 3/Scoop, Nov 6

Creating the new Occitanie region by merging Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenees was designed to save money. Three years on, on the contrary, it’s costing much more.

In 2016, the reform of the regions led to the merger of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. The objective, it was announced, was to make savings in the medium term, by economies of scale. For example, by merging two identical services into one, savings should be made.

Yet, three years after the reform, the budget of the new Occitanie region has exploded. It went from 2.4 billion euros to nearly 3.5 billion euros in 2018.

A survey published on November 3 on France Inter details some of the expenses.

To compensate Montpellier who lost its status as regional capital, the plenary sessions that bring together the 158 elected representatives take place at the exhibition centre in Montpellier. The cost is 137,170€ for a one day session. Over a year, this expense alone is 400,000€, according to Carole Delga, president of Occitanie.

Occitanie is the second largest region in France. It now has nearly 6 million inhabitants, spread over 13 departments. Its headquarters are located in Toulouse.

The number of kilometres travelled by officials increased by 78% in 2016 compared to 2015. In 2017, travel expenses for elected officials reached 646,000€. A shuttle system has been put into place: two eight-seater vehicles do round trips between Montpellier and Toulouse four days a week. To limit the trips, a video conferencing system has been installed in 36 rooms in both town halls, at a cost of 612,000€.

Another expense that has exploded, is related to the harmonisation of salaries and bonuses. It has cost 5.4 million euros to align the salaries, and there are stil duplicate jobs.

So will the expected savings be made? “Yes, in the long term,” said Carole Delga.

[So when might that be? Ed]

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