ROME July 5, 2013 – Today’s cabinet approval of the constitutional bill is only the first step in yet another attempt to abolish provincial authorities. The brief text will be discussed this morning and at the end of the meeting, the minister for relations with Parliament, Dario Franceschini, will announce a proposal that restricts itself to removing all references to provincial authorities in the constitution. In the firing line is article 114, which lays down that Italy comprises – from the bottom up – municipalities, provinces, metropolitan cities, regions and the state. However, the actual reform will arrive in ten days in the form of an ordinary bill. Before it endorses the bill, the government is waiting to read the constitutional court ruling that rejected the route chosen by the Monti executive so that it can avoid any more “accidents”. But the text is ready, although there could be a few additions to comply with the court’s observations. So what does the reform say?
Unlike the Monti government’s bill, this time the number of provincial authorities will not be reduced by mergers. All will disappear and instead in come “colleges of the autonomies”, a term coined by [economist and second president of Italy – Ed.] Luigi Einaudi. What is the difference? There will be no elected political bodies: no president, no cabinet and no council. The college will be made up of local mayors, removing the need for elections and saving the salaries of cabinet members and councillors. The Monti government’s reduction of provinces from eighty-six to fifty-one would have saved – it was reckoned – €375 million to €535 million a year in direct and indirect costs. Total abolition should more than double that figure.
And the boundaries? The minister for regional affairs, Graziano Delrio, notes: “We will not be redrawing the map from Rome. We will leave regional authorities free to decide”. The starting point, however, is the existing map. The colleges of the autonomies will, at least initially, be coextensive with today’s provinces. Their remit will be restricted to environmental, territorial and transport planning as well as managing the highways that are their responsibility. Everything else, from education to the arts, will pass to municipal or regional authorities. Mr Delrio goes on: “Unless the municipalities or regions decide to transfer some functions to the colleges, as they will be free to do”. Employees will be reassigned to regional and municipal authorities, in line with the transfer of functions.
The current total of 57,000 provincial employees will shrink over time but the government denies there will be redundancies. The process will be gradual and retirements of current staff will be sufficient. There are two further significant points in the reform. Point one is the rationalisation of smaller municipalities. Even today, those with fewer than 5,000 residents have to form alliances for certain tasks. Municipalities that go one step further and enter into a full union will have more weight in the colleges of the autonomies, the new provincial authorities. Point two concerns the trimming of intermediary bodies, consortiums and other enterprises, of which there are 7,000 up and down Italy. Colleges will not be able to have more than one such body per area of activity. It is thought that mergers will remove up to 2,000 of these publicly owned companies.
The subject is complex. It is worth remembering that the Monti government ordered the closure and putting out to tender of all local authority-owned companies. However, the Letta executive has just moved the deadline back to the end of December. Further regulations could be added when the constitutional court’s ruling has been scrutinised but the road is long and tortuous. Meanwhile the provincial authorities refuse to lie down, calling for a reduction in the costs of all politics. The president of the union of provinces, Antonio Saitta, complains: “It is unacceptable for the government to present a constitutional bill that focuses just on us. It confirms that politics has no wish to reform itself. When are they going to halve the number of parliamentarians?”
Lorenzo Salvia for Corriere della Sera
Qual’e’ la Provincia Italiana con piu’ Comuni?
La provincia italiana con più comuni è quella di Torino, in Piemonte, con315 comuni. Si estende su una superficie di 6.829 km², il che la rende la quarta provincia più grande d’Italia.
A seguire la provincia di Cuneo, anch’essa in Piemonte con 250 comuni e la provincia di Bergamo, in Lombardia, con 244 comuni.
Classifica delle 30 province italiane con più comuni
(in ordine decrescente di comuni)