Jean-Marc Pujol, Source: ®Ville de Perpignan

The efforts pay off when we target modernization and control of public expenditure

The efforts pay off when we target modernization and control of public expenditure

Conversation with Jean-Marc Pujol, Mayor of Perpignan for 10 years and President of the Perpignan Méditerranée agglomeration community

Mr Pujol, this year the Government recognized the municipal action by the label "Cité éducative". What efforts have been rewarded and what will this bring to the city?

In February 2019, the government launched the program of educational cities. It shall define a new collective working framework and new targets to be set in the sites where the educational challenge is more ambitious. The aim of the educational city is to enable the educational actors of the territories concerned to fight even more resolutely against segregation and to increase their attractiveness vis-à-vis the inhabitants.

A "Cité Educative" label of excellence could be awarded to eighty territories selected according to objective criteria (in particular the number of inhabitants and the poverty rate, the presence of Priority Education Network, the national urban renewal program, the school climate and the issues of public tranquillity) and the potential mobilization of local actors to develop collaborative work.

In these experimental sites, the challenge is to better support children and young people, from the youngest age to professional integration, in all times and spaces to significantly reduce the success gap with other neighbourhoods of the City and the agglomeration. For this, it is necessary:

  • To develop and deploy an educational strategy by identifying new synergies and perspectives in the service of three major objectives: to reinforce the role of the school, to promote educational continuity and to open the field of possibilities;
  • To unite all partners of the territory around the educational challenge: local authorities, schools and public institutions, associations, relevant trade associations, families, children, youth and residents…

Once the label is acquired, the launch of the project can be implemented with all partners and actors in the field, from the next school year. The educational city will benefit from the technical and financial support of the ministries. A state financial envelope of € 30,000 has already been announced. The educational city will be the pillar of the educational component of the renewed city contract.

Particular attention will be paid to the convergence of the educational city with the resources of the urban renewal program, the national strategy to combat poverty and the investment plan for skills. The educational city is based on the principle of co-financing and joint commitment of the State and the territory.

It will be requested to continue the development of a 2020-2021-2022 action program, which will contract the resources involved and set the monitoring and evaluation procedures. The system will be managed by the City, the National Education and the State services.

Terra Nostra 2030 is a collective project to build the territory of tomorrow, launched in 2015. What milestones have been achieved and what remains to be done?

The Terra Nostra territory project 2015-2020 made it possible to highlight the strategic vision of Perpignan Méditerranée during our passage to urban community and the determination of the objectives to be achieved as well as the essential actions to be carried out. It has been a key element for our planning and contracting with our partners.

The first quarter of this year 2019 was an opportunity to achieve a vital milestone. It has, indeed, allowed us to see the almost complete success of all the projects we have undertaken and to determine those that still need to be developed. When the Region launched the SRADDET Occitanie 2040 (Regional Plan of Development, Sustainable Development and Equality of the Territories), we submitted to its President, Carole DELGA, the contribution of Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole to this ambitious project.

This strong action fits in every point in the dynamics of the Urban Community to work daily to the success of this land full of promises and attests once more of this eagerness to act. It was then time for us to relaunch the major debates needed to continue building our territorial project. It is for these reasons that we chose to organize three days of exchanges and debates entitled Terra Nostra 2030 - Projection of a territory.

These days, which took place from 24 to 26 June 2019, were an invitation to reflection and debate on the desired future for the territory by 2030. During these three days, the elected representatives, their technicians and professionals from planning and development came together around round tables. Led by specialists in territorial development, the latter made it possible to bring out numerous proposals, accompanied by the expertise of the Catalan Pyrenees Mediterranean Urbanism Agency (AURCA) who applied them to the territory.

Illustrated by a graphic facilitator, who greatly helped the moderators during the workshop transcribing work, the suggestions from the debates allow to follow the red thread in future years. Following the same guidelines as the previous step and the desire to build a solidarity territory with the ambition to make it shine, the Terra Nostra 2030 project will be the guarantor of the success of social, economic and environmental progress that takes place within of our community.

The result of these three days is a sketch of the desired tracks for the future of our territory. It is a matter of setting up a methodology with regard to the needs and values ​​of Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole, particularly through our identity, geographical and historical, but also cultural and economic.

This major territorial project has benefited from the expertise of many actors of the Urban Community and beyond, gathered around a common goal: to make Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole a sustainable, coherent and determined territory, respectful of its history and of its environment. By combining all these talents, energies and initiatives, we are building today and all together, the world of tomorrow.

Perpignan Méditerranée changed status in 2016 to become an urban community. In your opinion, what have been the effects of this reform?

Since 1 January 2016, the intercommunal grouping of Perpignan and the 35 neighbouring municipalities has been reinforced. Now an urban community, the new structure is called Perpignan Mediterranean Metropolis. Its skills are very extensive, while its operation is based on the strengthening of proximity services, for the sake of efficiency.

The Urban Community is a pooling of human, financial and technical resources. Its staff comes mainly from the services of member municipalities. It has very extensive compulsory skills, the municipalities can also decide on the transfer of additional skills. Therefore, it is the urban community that provides and organizes these services to the population of the territory.

Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole aims to combine two levels:  ability to intervene, in an appropriate and optimized way, as closer to the inhabitants as possible, a combination of projects to increase the attractiveness, resources (especially European) and visibility of the territory.

With numerous means to act on local development, Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole intervenes on the basis of a "Terra Nostra" territory project, developed jointly by all the mayors and elected officials concerned. It aims to build a balanced territory, through the economic development of the heart of the metropolis, the traditional tourist attractiveness of the coast and the sustainable development of a hinterland marked by the quality of its living environment, its cultural, natural, agricultural and viticultural heritage.

Several municipalities are organized in territorial poles of proximity… while others have signed management agreements to maintain the implementation of local missions, such as the maintenance of public spaces for example, at the municipal level while preparing a pooling of services within the municipality. 

Could you tell us more about the privileged relationship between Perpignan and Catalonia?

First of all, we have a common history: capital of the Carolingian county of Roussillon, Perpignan was integrated in 1172 in the Kingdom of Aragon before becoming a century later capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. Perpignan became French as a result of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.

Today, we cultivate a language and a common culture. Numerous collaborations and conventions are put in place to preserve this identity, perpetuate ancestral traditions and move forward together. This is why there is a delegation of the Generalitat of Catalonia in Perpignan. Events such as Fest Cat, Adiflok, the Sardanes international competition are an opportunity to continue the exchanges between North and South Catalonia…

The City of Perpignan also has a Catalan Affairs department whose mission is the dissemination and promotion of Catalan culture in all its forms, but also the learning of the Catalan language and assistance to its teaching. It also supports the publishing of documents for the dissemination of the use of Catalan…

To carry out its missions, this service programs and organizes a whole series of Catalan cultural events… Not to mention the week of the Catalan language which consists of animations and works realized with the assistance of the pupils of the primary schools, the colleges and the high schools of the City, as well as conferences around Catalan authors in collaboration with the University of Perpignan, etc.

It is also equipped with a translation service dedicated to the reinforcement of the use of the Catalan language in the different actions and publications carried by all the services of the City and thus promote the presence of bilingualism and visibility of Catalan…

Thus, 2019 promises to be a year particularly rich in events, since it will see flourish throughout the year a whole host of activities and entertainment around the Sardane following the election of Perpignan "Capital de la Sardana 2019", a prestigious title awarded to the City… This title is attributed each year to a different city and is reflected throughout the year by the organization of various cultural and recreational activities to promote and cultivate sardana, its social prestige, highlighting both the musical part and the dance which is its essence as well as many other aspects.

It also aims to make the city known as "Capital of the Sardana" shine both on its territory and beyond the borders and comes to reward the city chosen for its involvement in the maintenance of a popular dance and identity whose liveliness has continued…

What would you like your fellow citizens to remember about your governance of Perpignan?

This year, for the first time, taxes will drop in Perpignan. Thus, the built-up property rate could be revised downwards, thanks to a rigorous and controlled management of public expenditure. Today, by increasing investment, lowering the debt and after 7 years in which taxation has not been increased, we can initiate a decline in the latter, which has never happened and what very few cities manage to achieve.

This means giving back purchasing power to Perpignan and helping businesses in their difficulties. It is indeed giving a strong signal about the good municipal management, in a difficult economic and financial context for communities, which has resulted in a very significant reduction in their resources. This is finally a sign that efforts are paying off when we tackle with determination the modernization the municipal organization and the control of public spending.

The financial situation of the city is healthy, and it remains such for several years. Despite a complex financial situation, I decided since 2012 not to raise taxes, refusing to weigh too heavy a burden on the shoulders of Perpignan people. We have reached a financial balance, in particular thanks to the control of public expenditure. This choice, resolutely maintained, allowed us to continue the investments necessary for the development of a municipality of more than 120,000 inhabitants.

Perpignan is thus implementing with determination its territorial project for the heart of the urban community. The achievements are gradually transforming the city, which is now recognized as an economic and tourist destination.

Today this strategy is bearing fruit. The population continues to grow and private investment accompanies public investment, thus contributing to the creation of wealth and jobs. Of course, much remains to be done, especially in neighbourhoods, but allowing Perpignan people to increase their purchasing power through lower taxes is the first of our victories.

Read the first part of the interview with Jean-Marc Pujol, Mayor of Perpignan.



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