Jean-Marc Ayrault, former Mayor of Nantes

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Nantes and neighbouring communities
transfer powers to joint urban authority
By Nick Swift, with research by Guy Kervella

1 July 2003: A sea port of the first importance near the estuary of the Loire, Nantes is home to a wide spectrum of industries, including aeronautic, chemical, electronic and high technology, fishing and food processing. In the midst of some of the finest vineyards in a country renowned for it's wines, it is here that the Muscadet grape is grown. Nantes was for long the capital of Brittany, but is now part of the Pays de la Loire. It is the site of the signing of the Edict of Nantes (1598), which gave French Protestants their freedom of worship, and of the birth of Jules Verne.

With a greater metropolitan population of over 600,000, Nantes has a university, an eminent business school, museums and manifold arts and music events and facilities and, in addition, is a horticultural centre. the Mayor of Nantes is Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The Municipal Council through its deliberations governs the affairs of the Commune, the latter being the smallest unit of French local government. Nantes’ Municipal Council consists of 65 Municipal Councillors. The Commune’s budget is decided, and its implementation monitored, by the Municipal Council, which also determines the Commune’s share of household taxes, manages municipal services, and authorises borrowings and adoption of accounts.

The Mayor’s office, as Head of the Commune Administration, is thus the highest in the Commune, and he selects its staff. His duties include preparing topics for decisions, presiding over the meetings and implementing the resolutions of the Municipal Council, as well as proposing the budget, ordering expenditures, determining revenues, signing contracts and administering the assets of the Commune.

Among the Mayor's 21 deputies are the two special deputies for Doulon and Chantenay and, with their help, he oversees all municipal services. He exercises his power as Commune police authority through issuing arrêtés (orders). In all acts of legal and public life he represents the Commune. He organises elections, and publishes and applies the laws of France.

The Director-General of Services, under the supervision of the Mayor, controls the day-to-day realisation of the Municipal Council’s projects, policies and initiatives. He is responsible for economic development, higher education and research.

On 7 April 2000, a majority of 21 member Communes voted for the transfer of powers and of related resources, human and financial, to the Nantes Urban Community. (After that, its area expanded to include the three new Communes of Brains, Saint-Léger-les-Vignes and Mauves-sur-Loire.) Powers of municipal services since then have encompassed such items as social action and integration, culture and social activity, and the family, including early childhood, youth associations, and the elderly.

The Nantes Urban Community’s powers comprise statutory responsibilities. These include City policy; cultural, economic and social development; socially balanced housing; management of services; the environment and preservation and improvement of quality of life. There are also additional ones, such as electricity and gas; facilities for higher education and research; and transport and telecommunication.

The structure of the Nantes Urban Community consists of, first, the Chairman. As the Community’s executive, the holder of this office prepares and implements the resolutions of the Council and the Bureau.

The highest deliberating body is the Community Council. It votes on and oversees implementations of the Budget, and decides local business taxes and the administration of Communal services. It has 113 Municipal Councillors for member towns and cities, allocated according to population. The Community Council thus has 49 elected representatives from the Nantes Municipal Council.

Below the Community Council is the Bureau. With 32 Vice-Chairmen, including 24 Mayors, who deliberate on topics delegated by the Council, it also includes eight commissions and bodies whose duties include preparing studies and making proposals.

There is also a Development Council, with 100 members, which liaises with social and economic circles and associations of the Urban Community.

Relations between the Urban Community and its member Communes are governed by an Operating Charter. It rearranges them into ten proximity centres, and assigns Community and local representatives to local Commissions. Its primary function, however, is to manage areas, within each proximity centre, like roads, street lighting and waste management. It also holds a Mayor’s Conference, and pursues long-term co-development contracts. There are seven such centres in the Communal Territory of the City of Nantes: three in central Nantes, and the rest in certain Nantes quartiers and outlying Communes.

The various bodies – associations, corporations, institutions, and so on – within the City group’s structure have, under elected representatives, have continued to work to improve of the lives of the citizens since the creation of the Urban Community and the transfer of powers previously held by the City.

World Mayor 2023