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Good service for rural areas

Jan 30, 2019 / alpMedia
A success story: December 2018 saw the opening of the 100th «Maison de services au public» in the French Alps.
Image caption:
Simple access, personal service: the «Maisons de services public» are popular in the French Alps. © ADRETS - CC by-SA

The train ride from Saint-Étienne de Cuines to Chambéry, the nearest large town, takes a good 50 minutes. The former, a municipality of 1,200 inhabitants in the French Alps, has the same problems as many other small communities: budget cutbacks, digitisation of processes and the disappearance of local services. Public services and personal advice on such matters as housing, finding jobs, or family, social and legal matters are often only available in the nearest town, which is particularly awkward for older people or families with small children. In December 2018, therefore, Saint-Étienne de Cuines in the Savoy region saw the opening of a «Maison de services au public» (MSAP) – the numbers of which now exceed 100 – offering personal advice and services directly to local people.

This has been a recipe for success, with the number of MSAPs in the French Alps doubling between 2015 and 2018. The body known as ADRETS (Association for the Networked Development of Alpine Territories and Services) has developed this innovative model for the basic provision of services in peripheral areas. The specific advantage of MSAPs is that they offer both face-to-face assistance and digital consultation, explains Jean Horgues-Debat, co-founder and (until 2017) CEO of ADRETS and president of CIPRA France. He mentions the network effect: «Initial experiences showed politicians the benefits for their constituents of MSAPs. At the same time, however, municipalities also benefit from sharing services with the MSAP such as tourist offices, local post offices or social services, thus saving money.» Horgues-Debat believes the particular reason for the success of MSAPs lies in their low-threshold, people-friendly offer: «The pooling of resources lessens access difficulties and reduces social contrasts.»

A common fund has supported operations since January 2016, with financing including such sources as the sickness and old-age pension funds, as well as the employment agency. ADRETS also receives political and financial support from the government-backed CIMA (Convention Interrégionale du Massif des Alpes).


Sources and further information: (fr), (fr), (fr), (fr), (fr), (fr)