The political risks for Hollande as French mayors protest against cuts

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Mayors from across France have staged demonstrations against reduced funding from central government. However, the right-wing mayor who is behind the protests oversaw similar cuts in 2011 when he was budget minister. Meanwhile President Hollande, who is overseeing the current funding squeeze, opposed such moves when he was in opposition. But as Hubert Huertas argues, while there's more than a whiff of hypocrisy about the protests, they could nonetheless be damaging to the socialist government and the head of state himself.

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There have been rows about local authority spending in France for years. Ever since the question of the French state's budget deficit developed into a recurring theme – in other words, for the last fifteen years or so – the country's towns, départements (akin to counties) and regions have been accused of wasteful spending. The weekly news magazine Le Point has made a speciality of the subject, regularly using its front page – in between reports on where to invest your money or the latest property price trends – to pillory local authorities on how they spend their money. In September 2012, for example, the magazine ran a headline about the “scandal of local authorities”, writing of “dizzying levels of hidden spending” and of “insatiable local chieftains”. These are the same local “chieftains” whom François Baroin, the head of the Association des Maires de France (AMF), the mayor of Troyes south-east of Paris and a former minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, called on to protest on the streets last Saturday against a reduction in funding by the socialist-run central government.