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Lavish pensioners' bash lands village in hot water

Joshua Melvin · 9 Apr 2014, 10:50

Published: 09 Apr 2014 10:50 GMT+02:00

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We know the French have a love for good food and fine wine, but sometimes it can go to far, it seems. That appears to be the case in the little southern village of Barcarès where authorities have been splashing far too much cash on their lavish annual meal for senior citizens.

In 2010 the seniors’ meal cost taxpayers a whopping €33,700.

Its menu included 1,100 half-lobsters (€7,600), 77 kg of sliced salmon ​​(€2,400), 150 magnums of champagne (€6,800) as well as 1,104 bottles cotes de Roussillon wine and another 144 bottles of Montbazillac wine.

The bill for the banquet caught the eye of state auditors, perhaps unsurprisingly given the lavish spending on the yearly bash

The regional Chambres des Comptes, a government finance auditor, says the Barcarès Town Hall should be a little more careful.

“The Chambre’s attention has been drawn to the large volume of food and alcohol purchased for the festivities,” the auditors wrote in their report covering the fiscal years 2007-2011.

“Without commenting on the appropriateness of such events, we must remind you that their organization must always be marked by a concern for the thrifty use of public monies.”

It seems a reasonable request given the current mayor of the town of 4,000 and his wife have both been convicted in recent years of misusing the village’s money, French daily Le Parisien reported.

When questioned by the auditors, the village mayor Alain Ferrand said the lavish expenses were justified by a "concern for conviviality between residents.” The mayor also said he was stunned by the "tone" of the report, noting it provides little help in dealing with the issues that the village must handle when its population swells to 80,000 in tourist season.

Ferrand, a member of the conservative UMP party, was busted in 1999 for misusing town money and was banned from holding office for three years. In the interim his wife was elected, but then was herself snared in over financial irregularities surrounding a the dredging of a local port. Ferrand, however, was re-elected last month with 55 percent of the vote.

French national lawmakers drew some harsh words from critics earlier this year when they reported on the various clubs, including baton-twirling and fishing, that were being supported by millions of euros of taxpayers' cash. Though transparency isn't the only thing that counts in France; another report showed that a certain amount of corruption is tolerated by the French electorate. 

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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