A newly elected mayor in southern France is already sparking controversy for his decision to save money by cutting free lunches for his town’s poorest school children.
According to The Local, Joris Hébrard is one of the 11 new mayors from France’s far-right National Front party who was elected in March. He is the new mayor of Pontet, in southern France. Pontet is €50 million in debt, which Hébrard decided to try to deal with by cutting school lunches for the town’s poorest children, even though the free lunch program only costs Pontet €30,000 per year, or approximately .05 percent of the town’s annual budget.
Hébrard’s chief of staff, Xavier Magnin, says the plan is to make many tiny spending cuts and hope that in the end they will add up to €50 million.
Cutting the school lunch program is particularly contentious considering that one of Hébrard’s first actions upon taking office was to give himself a €1,000 monthly pay raise over his predecessor. According to The Local, the previous mayor received €2,000 euros a month. Hébrard will receive approximately €3,000.
Magnin denies that there’s any controversy at all, saying the media is manufacturing the criticism.
“[Local residents] aren’t talking to us about the mayor’s salary,” he said to The Local. “They say ‘Bravo Mr. Mayor. We’re fed up that it’s always the same ones who take advantage’”
The school lunches normally cost students €3.15, or $4.31. The poor students who were previously getting their lunches for free will now be required to pay €1.57, or $2.15 per meal.
“Zero euros, it’s not expensive for a meal,” Magin said. “€1.50, it’s not too expensive either in the school cafeteria.”