Contractualisation methods between departments and SSE actors
Kit departementalESS n°4
Réseau des collectivités Territoriales pour une Economie Solidaire (RTES)
In connection with the renewal of departmental and regional executives in June 2021, the RTES is proposing a DepartmentalESS kit to raise awareness among candidates and provide tools for future teams wishing to support the social and solidarity economy (SSE).
This kit will include about twenty practical sheets, based on the principle of the MunicipalESS Kit published in 2020, illustrated with examples, and presenting in a synthetic and concrete way how a regional council can include the SSE in its policies.
Sheet No. 4 specifies the contractual relations between departments and SSE actors.
Contractual relations with SSE actors are established at all levels of local authorities and the State. Subsidies, multi-year agreements on objectives, calls for projects, collection of initiatives, public contracts, public service delegations, etc., the modes of partnership and contractualisation between SSE actors and local authorities are diverse but are not equivalent. They are part of a complex legal environment (under both French legislation and the European framework) that is important to know.
Subsidy or public order: a choice of public action
Some preconceived ideas about subsidies :
The law on SSE, adopted in July 2014, has enabled the registration of the subsidy at the legislative level and thus to secure this mode of financing. But some preconceived ideas remain about subsidies, which can lead to the abusive generalisation of the use of public contracts.
Grants are not controllable: FALSE. It is possible to suspend the payment of funds at any time if the association does not respect its contractual obligations.
Grants are the source of more disputes than public contracts: FALSE. Less than ten disputes involving grants were recorded in 2004, compared to more than 5,000 involving public contracts. Of these, 62% led to a cancellation.
Public grants are more expensive than public contracts: FALSE. The subsidy includes a share of self-financing (voluntary work, sponsorship, etc.) and thus covers only part of the real cost of the activity, unlike the public contract, the price of which is the economic counter-value of the service provided to the community.
More details can be found in the RTES Points de RepèrESS n°4 on contractualisation methods.
As a reminder, in the framework of the NOTRe law, the departmental councils can directly support SSE actors on their non-economic component.
The field of activity of these actors must fall within the field of competence of the departmental councils, which are in charge of human and territorial solidarity (see sheet 3).
European regulations, de minimis, GBER and SGEIs
European regulations prohibit public aid to economic actors (understood in the broadest sense, including associations), while providing for numerous exemptions: amounts of less than 200,000 euros over three years (known as « de minimis » regulations), exemption regulations by category of aid (examples: innovation, training, environmental protection, culture, local infrastructure, etc.) or exemption regulations relating to services of general economic interest (SGEIs). The organising public authority has broad discretionary powers to classify an activity as an SGEI, with the judge’s role being limited to checking for manifest errors of assessment.
Possible ways of action by the departmental council :
Encouraging cooperation rather than competition
The regions/departments may favour pooling and cooperation between actors. In particular, in the context of calls for projects, which may involve competition between SSE actors, it may be worthwhile to work on the terms of the call for projects with the actors beforehand and/or to encourage cooperation.
Respect the associative initiative
In the case of the call for projects, the region/department defines a general framework (objectives, themes and identified needs) within which the structures are invited to present projects that correspond to it. However, the initiative and content of the project belong to the structure alone. A call for projects that is too formatted makes initiative impossible.
Give preference to Multiannual Agreements on Objectives (MAO)
CPOs generally make it possible to lighten the administrative burden and facilitate the cash flow management of organisations. They also allow them to have more visibility and to establish a long-term partnership.
Include the principles of cooperation and co-construction in territorial support schemes
The regions/departments, as part of their support for territories, particularly in rural areas, can include criteria such as social diversity, accessibility to services, social innovation, mobilisation of local actors, particularly associations and citizens, in their project selection criteria.
Ensure that innovation is not hindered by overly precise intervention frameworks
SSE actors have a capacity for innovation, because they are close to the ground in identifying needs and defining projects that meet these needs.
To go further
Points de RepèrESS The modes of contractualisation between local authorities and SSE actors, RTES
La subvention à l’épreuve de la diversité des régulations locales de la vie associative, Laurent Fraisse, 2013 - Guide d’usage de la subvention, ex-Ministère de la Ville, de la Jeunesse et des Sports, 2016
Memo on SGEIs, CRESS Bretagne, January 2020