Italy's leaders struggle with austere changes

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Italy's leaders struggle with austere changes

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Silvio Berlusconi’s villa in Milan is best known for the parties hosted there.

But the atmosphere today was undoubtedly more sombre as the Italian minister held talks with with his coalition partner, Northern League’s Umberto Bossi in an effort to overcome hurdles to the country’s latest austerity plan.

Also present was the plan’s author, economy minister, Guilio Tremonti. The current version may have been hailed by European leaders but it has been slammed at home.

Various changes are possible such as increasing VAT to cover the cost of reducing cuts. But the bottom line of 45.5 billion euros of savings has to remain.

Mayors from across the political spectrum and around the country rallied in Milan to voice their hostility.

Small-town mayors oppose plans to merge their municipalities. But all say too much is being cut from their budgets rather than at a state level.

“They’re cutting funds to local entities, which are those closest to the citizens,” said Giuliano Pisapia, the far-left Mayor of Milan. “We should think about cutting waste at a national level.”

The sentiment was echoed by the right-leaning Rome Mayor, Gianni Alemanno who said that the State must make cuts in its budgets which account for 75 percent of public spending.

Berlusconi will be hoping changes agreed today will be enough to ward off a national strike planned for September 6.