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france 24 Europe

Paris mayor in bid to erase historic city districts

© Google Maps | Paris's 20 arrondissements spiral outwards from the centre like a snail's shell

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-30

Paris’s Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to wipe four of the city’s 20 historic arrondissements off the map in a bid to make the French capital “more democratic and more efficient”, according to documents seen by French daily le Monde.

Paris is currently divided into 20 arrondissements (districts), each with its own mayor and town hall. This administrative structure, which has been in place since 1860, spirals outwards from the centre in what is often described in France as being like a snail’s shell.

The current setup includes arrondissements of vastly different demographics. The central 1st arrondissement, for example, has just 17,000 residents, while the residential 15th in the south west of the capital has 238,000.

Most people living in Paris identify themselves to a certain degree by which arrondissement they call their home. But that may be about to change.

The plans, due to be debated by the city council in mid-February, would regroup the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th arrondissements into one, to create 17 districts by 2020.

According to the documents seen by Le Monde, “the plan is not to get rid of the arrondissement system but simply to centralise the administration of the less populated areas."

Hidalgo also wants the mayors of the new administrative setup to have greater powers and responsibilities in line with their counterparts responsible for towns and cities across the country.

These added responsibilities would come as a result of a proposed merger between the département (French administrative region) of Paris and the city council, in a bid to end the “muddle of responsibilities” and to make running the city “more efficient”.

The city council is due to debate the proposals on February 15. If they are accepted, they will have to be approved by parliament “some time before the end of the year”, according to Hidalgo’s office.

City councillors of the opposition conservative Les Républicains party, who have a track record of trying to derail any policy proposals put forward by Hidalgo, are not supportive, believing the changes are designed to secure long-term Socialist domination of the French capital by reducing the number of mayors belonging to centrist or conservative parties.

According to an AFP source, Les Républicains leader in Paris Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet believes the proposed changes “are a smokescreen designed to secure Anne Hidalgo’s position”.

The centrist UDI-MoDem group is also not convinced: “Nothing justifies redrawing the map of Paris’s arrondissements … it is nothing but a political and electoral manipulation.”

Date created : 2016-01-30

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