The regional chamber of accounts released its summary report on the Breton islands on Tuesday, January 24. This work focused on examining the management of several islands, three island municipalities and a community of municipalities (Belle-Île-en-Mer), but also the association of the Îles du Ponant, created fifty years ago. , which currently brings together fifteen islands where 16,396 people live year-round, including 13,000 on the Breton islands.
“This work was carried out to compare the practices of each other, explain Sophie Bergogne, president of the CRC, and Bernard Prigent, magistrate. And to highlight the common points and the differences”, in order to identify ways of optimizing management for the future.
Autonomous islands and connected islands
First of all, it shows that two main criteria – the size and the distance between the islands of the mainland – are not taken into account in the calculation of State aid. “The issues are not the same on Ouessant, which is more than an hour away by boat, and on Île aux Moines, which is a stone’s throw from the mainland. This last island is connected to the networks of Morbihan. In Ouessant, on the other hand, the islanders live in total autonomy, which implies significant investments for the production of energy and the treatment of water and waste”, continues Bernard Prigent. Equipment that cannot be pooled, given the insularity, and which cost on average 38% more than on the mainland.
Added to this, very high tourist numbers (more than 3 million visitors in 2022) which greatly weakens these territories where the number of second homes has increased sharply in recent decades, from 30% in 1968 to 63% in 2020. This has a strong impact on housing for people who live there year-round. With only 4% of social housing – against 15.6% nationally – finding a roof there is a feat.
Develop sustainable employment
This inventory should not be an obstacle to the development of these territories, as Sophie Bergogne explains. Because avenues for development, based on compromises, do exist. “In our report, we advise communities to set up local urban plans (PLU) in sectors where the cadastres are very fragmented”, details Bernard Prigent. “We also have to think about areas of activity, which are often non-existent or saturated, develop agriculture and other activities to allow people to work all year round, and not just in the summer. As such, I would like to remind you that the unemployment rate in Belle-Île was 14% in 2017”. Against 9%, the same year at the national level.
In the areas of energy, waste, and drinking water, the regional chamber of accounts considers that the municipal teams lack leadership, foresight but also engineering. “At the same time, it is not easy to attract ad hoc personnel to these territories,” tempers the president.
Specific state grants
Later in the report, the CRC estimates that, overall, the accounts are balanced thanks to public support, such as the Breton partnership contract for the islands: amounting to 11 million euros between 2015 and 2020, it is in renewal course. To this we can add the global allocation for insularity, of 4 million euros each year since 2017, distributed between the island municipalities of Ponant, to compensate for the various additional financial costs.
In conclusion, CRC experts encourage islanders to experiment and innovate, as provided for by the 3DS law (relating to “differentiation, decentralization, deconcentration and carrying various measures to simplify local public action”), but also to exchange with each other. “You can’t afford to be parochial when you live on an island,” concludes Sophie Bergogne.
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