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Valls announces pension, benefits, public-sector pay freeze in austerity France

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls meets the press after Wednesday's cabinet meeting
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls meets the press after Wednesday's cabinet meeting Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Pensions and housing, family and invalidity benefits will be frozen in France this year and so will public-sector pay, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced on Wednesday ahead of next week's validation by the European Commission of the French government's efforts to reduce its budget deficit.

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Pensions and other benefits usually rise by the official inflation rate every year but this year they will not be going up by the 0.7 per cent recorded in 2013.

And for the fourth year running civil servants and other public employees will not receive an across-the-board wage rise.

Valls took time to meet the press after Wednesday's weekly cabinet meeting so as to give more details of how he means to cut 50 billion euros off the budget to meet France's commitments to Europe and bosses, who have been let off 30 billion euros in social security contributions by President François Hollande's Responsibility Pact.

The cuts will be "fair", "collective" and "fairly shared", Valls promised.

"I know how much we owe to our public servants who are so essentail to the life of this country," he said. "But the situation obliges us to ask them to contribute to our common effort."

Government ministries will continue to reduce their workforces, Valls announced, as will state-financed bodies, such as water authorities and weather forecasters.

The cuts will be shared between government expenses, at 18 billion euros, local authorities, at 11 billion euros, health, at 10 billion, and other social spending, at 11 billion euros.

Socialist MPs expressed concern that they had not been warned of the details of the announcement beforehand.

Parliament will vote on the plan on 30 April.

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