“The town halls are the gateway to the Republic”

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Flavien Neuvy, mayor of Cebazat

FRENCH ON THE FRONT – Flavien Neuvy, who heads the Cetelem Consumption Observatory, is also mayor of Cebazat, a peri-urban commune in Puy-de-Dôme with 9,000 inhabitants. He recounts his daily life as a confined councilor. Challenges gives voice to the essential employees of our daily life.

Challenges – You were re-elected on March 15. Two days later, confinement began. How was your municipality organized?

Flavien Neuvy – municipal services continue to operate, certainly in degraded mode, but with a telephone reception every day. For example, the civil status remains open with agents who work in part from home. Social action is also maintained with the food bank, home meal delivery, home help and nursing care for the elderly. And we have activated our plan, as in the heatwaves, to telephone the most vulnerable audiences once a week.

Since March 17, what does your daily life as mayor consist of?

I spend 3 to 4 hours every day at the town hall to consult emails from state services, respond to letters from residents, and enforce prefectural orders. Every Wednesday evening, I consult the assistants and elected officials by videoconference. And every day, I take stock with the director general of services. There is a lot to do. We were told, for example, to leave the markets open, then close them, then open them a little … We had two a week. I decided to stop the Sunday one, which is very busy, to keep only the Thursday one with fifteen local producers and traders. We also opened the Jules Ferry school for the children of caregivers, soldiers and police, with a neighboring town. We welcome 5 to 6 boys and girls there every day who come to study, have lunch and play.

Do the agents have protective equipment?

We were promised masks but we cannot get them except the municipal police which has been equipped by the state. A childcare worker tested positive for the virus. He has been quarantined at home for two weeks.

Is confinement well respected and supported by your constituents?

The 9,000 residents of the commune immediately adopted the right attitudes, including avoiding shaking hands or kissing. The municipal police did not have to verbalize much. However, many people contacted us during the first two weeks by email or phone calls. I am struck by the extent to which the town hall is the gateway to the Republic, especially when citizens no longer know where to turn.

Do you also share the municipal management of two Ehpad with neighboring municipalities?

Yes, they are managed by an intermunicipal union and each has about 80 residents each who have not been affected by Covid-19. In addition, I work closely with the 21 mayors of the Clermont metropolitan area, within our metropolitan office. There is a lot of solidarity without a political stance. We roll up our sleeves, but people don’t necessarily realize it. It’s transparent.

How do you see the future and the way out of containment?

Every Friday morning, we chat at an online conference for two hours to harmonize our actions and our responses. For example, when our citizens ask not to pay the music school for the duration of the confinement. We also talk about the future, especially the budgetary cost of this crisis. Some projects will have to be reviewed because tax revenues will drop. And not only here. However, in France, 70% of the investment comes from local authorities. The shock will be considerable.

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