MILAN Hundreds of Italian mayors from across the political spectrum marched in Milan on Wednesday and threatened to resign en masse in protest at austerity measures imposed by Mario Monti's government of technocrats.
A mass resignation would be a highly symbolic mark of public opposition to Monti's unpopular austerity plan but would not necessarily interfere with the running of the Rome government.
Mayors from the smallest towns to the largest cities gathered in Italy's financial capital under the banner "Free towns from the Stupidity Pact", a reference to spending curbs imposed on local authorities under a so-called Stability Pact.
The head of the association of town councils, Graziano Delrio, met with central government officials to seek changes to the budget law currently before parliament, in particular a softening of cuts in local authority funding.
Delrio said that unless the mayors' demands were granted they would assemble on November 29, when the budget is due to be discussed in its final reading in the Senate, to announce their mass resignations.
The right-wing mayor of Rome, the leftist mayors of Milan and Turin and scores of their counterparts from the separatist Northern League and other parties put aside their differences to rally together outside the famous La Scala opera house at the event, organized by a body representing Italy's mayoralties.
The roughly 1,000 mayors who attended, according to organizers, represented about an eighth of Italy's roughly 8,000 municipalities.
Delrio said the cuts, aimed at trimming Italy's budget deficit, were eroding vital public services, damaging the education system, and meant that 2013 threatened to be "the year of the funeral of city governments".
Many secondary schools across Italy are closed this week because they have been occupied by students in protest against government cuts.
Monti, who was drafted in unelected to haul Italy out of crisis a year ago, said on Sunday a new government appointed after next year's election would have to keep up his reform agenda to retain the confidence of investors.
(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)