May 25, 2007 / 2:32 PM / 10 years ago

Italians cry out over free funerals for politicians

VENICE (Reuters) - A free funeral is not everyone's idea of a perk but some politicians in northern Italy's Veneto region defended Wednesday the right to expense their final send-off amid a public outcry about freeloading politicians.

Councilors elected to the regional government housed in a palace on Venice's Grand Canal have voted themselves 7,500 euros worth of funeral expenses, on top of generous pay, free lunches, parking, daily expenses and other extras.

"I don't think it's outrageous for Councilors to have their funerals paid for, as recognition for 10 or 15 years of public service," said Veneto regional council president Marino Finozzi of the right-wing Northern League party.

Tackling reports that Councilors voted the perk months ago under cover of night, he said it was "not true we approved it at night because we were ashamed. It just happened to be late."

But after the last rights reached the ears of the media in the midst of a national debate about the public's lack of faith in Italy's bloated political apparatus, other Councilors said they would vote to abolish the privilege.

"It's a stupid privilege which makes no sense. There are some so-called acquired rights which are just incomprehensible privileges. They will be abolished -- full stop," said Diego Bottacin, a center-left councilor.

Italian politicians are engaged in a bout of soul-searching after opinion polls showed the low esteem in which they are held by the electorate. One poll for La Repubblica newspaper showed only one in 10 people had any faith in elected officials.

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