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Threat of a guardianship of the city of Paris: how does this radical tool work?

"The financial situation of the city of Paris is serious", denounced the Minister of Transport Clément Beaune, Sunday, November 27, on the set of the "Grand rendez-vous" of Europe 1 and CNEWS.

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Threat of a guardianship of the city of Paris: how does this radical tool work?

"The financial situation of the city of Paris is serious", denounced the Minister of Transport Clément Beaune, Sunday, November 27, on the set of the "Grand rendez-vous" of Europe 1 and CNEWS. "The figures are eloquent, the debt since the start of Madame Hidalgo's mandate in 2014 has doubled" and it is not "as Anne Hidalgo says, linked to Covid-19", estimates the minister. According to the town hall, the total debt of the city of Paris will amount to 7.75 billion euros on December 31. In 2001, it amounted to just over one billion euros. A guardianship "is not excluded", therefore dropped Clément Beaune, adding that this scenario would be "extremely serious" and represents "a last resort".

This request had already been implied last year by Rachida Dati, head of the first opposition group to the Council of Paris, who does not miss an opportunity to castigate the "calamitous" management of the city. After stormy sessions in the Council of Paris, the elected right-winger had asked the State to regain control of the management of the capital.

"I think that for Parisians, the Anne Hidalgo page has already been turned," said Clément Beaune on Sunday. "When you have in the presidential election less than 2% of your own city... Parisians have already moved on but they are worried today because their taxes are being increased on the sly, because they do not really see any benefits from this financial drift", he added, referring to the increase in property tax in the capital.

In 2020, the outgoing candidate for mayor of Paris had indeed assured that she would not increase taxes if she were re-elected. Two years later, "due to a worrying national and international context, marked by climate change, the energy crisis and high inflation", Anne Hidalgo made the choice to significantly increase the tax rate. property, which will rise in 2023 from 13.5% to 20.5%, an increase of 52%. Beyond the economic situation, the latter recalls that Paris has the property tax "the lowest in France", the national average within the large cities being 41.61%.

For Emmanuel Grégoire, first deputy of the town hall of Paris, "nothing justifies on the legal level to evoke the" placing under supervision "of the City of Paris". But in practice, is such a measure possible? From a constitutional point of view, local authorities, including municipalities, "benefit from the general competence clause allowing them to settle by deliberation all matters relating to their level", including administrative and economic matters.

According to article 72 of the Constitution: "In the territorial collectivities of the Republic, the representative of the State is responsible for national interests, administrative control and respect for the laws." In other words, it is up to the prefect to oversee the legality of administrative acts. On the other hand, the budgetary acts of local authorities are administrative acts subject to specific control within the jurisdiction of specialized jurisdictions: the regional chambers of accounts and the territorial chambers of accounts. In Paris, it would therefore be up to the Regional Chamber of Accounts of Ile de France to peel the accounts of the town hall at the request of the prefect.

If the magistrates find that the budget has not been voted in real balance, they can then propose to the local authority, within thirty days of the referral, the measures necessary to restore budget balance, while by asking the deliberating body for a new deliberation, pursuant to Article L1612-5 of the General Code of Local Authorities. If the town hall has not ruled within the prescribed period, or if the deliberation taken does not include corrective measures deemed sufficient by the regional chamber of accounts, the prefect can then take over to straighten out finances at half mast. We then speak of guardianship.

It remains to be seen whether Marc Guillaume, prefect of the Île-de-France region, is ready to launch this time-consuming file. This type of scenario is relatively rare. Only a few communities have experienced a budget rectification with the help of the Regional Chamber of Accounts, such as Bussy-Saint-Georges in 2003, Pont-Saint-Esprit in 2008, or Hénin-Beaumont in 2009.

We have to go back more than 80 years to find the trace of the placing under guardianship of a very large city: Marseille. The very controversial event was caused by the death of 74 people during a fire in the Nouvelles Galeries, on the Canebière. The socialist mayor at the time, Henri Tasso, was then accused of being responsible for not having modernized the municipal fire-fighting service. After several expert reports, the city was placed under guardianship in January 1939. The government then appointed an extraordinary administrator, Frédéric Surleau.

Today, a guardianship of the city of Paris thus seems unlikely, and even if it happened, the mandate of Anne Hidalgo would not be threatened. The law does not provide for the mayor of a municipality subject to such a measure to be forced to leave his seat or to put it back into play.

The controversy, however, highlights the unhealthy climate between the executive and the town hall of Paris. On November 24, Anne Hidalgo, for example, announced that she was filing a complaint for defamation against the Minister of Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal. The day before, the latter had indeed compared the management of the capital to a "Ponzi pyramid" because of the accounting mishmash of capitalized rents.

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