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Around 50 people gathered last Thursday in a reception room at the local town hall, which abuts Trouville’s famous seaside casino. Most of the attendees were older, with strands of grey in their hair. The crowd was comprised of elected officials, municipal employees and members of the ongoing Yellow Vest protest movement, which led French President Emmanuel Macron to launch the national debate earlier this month.
Not a single seat in the room was empty, pointed out Trouville’s centrist mayor, Christophe Caron, who organised the event. On the agenda: public spending and transitioning towards a green economy – although the first of the two issues largely dominated the debate.
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“We have to reduce the number of lawmakers. We also have to reduce their personal expenses. It’s costing us a fortune,” complained a city official, who described himself as a “Yellow Vest in heart and soul” – ironically touching on one of Macron’s campaign promises.
His comments were dismissed by city councilor Élisabeth Schemla, a member of Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) party. “[Lawmakers’ personal expenses] cost only €1 of every €1,000 of public spending,” she said.
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Caron echoed Schemla, arguing that any measure limiting expenses would be “purely symbolic”. The mayor’s words, however, were met with an immediate outcry from the room. “[It’s why] Yellow Vests feel disrespected,” pointed out an attendee.
Throughout the two-hour debate, one question – the same one heard at Yellow Vest protests across the country for the past two months – was repeated again and again: “Where does our money go?”
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“We’re under record fiscal pressure, with the value-added tax, income tax, social charges… yet public services are disappearing, hospitals and police stations are closing, and maternity clinics are moving away,” one townsperson said.
“I’ve studied the state budget, and I don’t get it,” said another attendee. “All I saw was...
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