The mayors prepare a new offensive to demand from the Government a local participation much higher in
European funds, and an extra compensation of 5,000 million for the effects of the pandemic in the municipalities. In total, local entities are demanding 25,000 million euros and they are not going to settle for one euro less. In this local battle, which began last year and which has brought together councilors from very disparate parties, mayors from all over Spain denounce the abandonment of the Government due to the financial asphyxia to which municipalities have been subjected in a particularly difficult period for them, being the first line of battle against the virus, with numerous unforeseen expenses that have
asphyxiated the municipal coffers.
A year and a half after the start of the pandemic, the still photo reflects a frontal confrontation between the Government of Sánchez and local entities. Dialogue is non-existent right now, despite the decisive role of municipalities in the fight against the health crisis, and the financial asphyxia to which they have been exposed. The 18 conferences of regional presidents that have been held since March 2020 contrasts with the only videoconference that Sánchez had with the mayors, in April of last year. On that occasion, the president promised help and regular meetings. He has not seen or heard them again, despite the calls for help that mayors from all over Spain have launched to the Government to receive financial oxygen.
The ‘decree’, sunk
The municipal power unearthed the hatchet against the Government in the summer of last year, when Moncloa wanted to impose a ‘decree’ of urgent measures applicable to local entities, which, according to the opposition en bloc, meant neither more nor less than theft or seizure of municipal savings by the Executive. In September, the Government registered its first major parliamentary defeat, when all the opposition joined, from the PP to ERC, through the BNG, the PNV or Compromís, to overturn that decree, with 193 noes compared to the 156 yeses that the Executive.
That defeat hurt at La Moncloa. So much so that municipalities became secondary elements for the Government in the fight against the pandemic. No dialogue or contacts, not even with the Minister of Finance. And most importantly, neither the aid that was requested. From the PP they assure that he has rejected the requests for meetings that have been addressed to him. In the PSOE they specify that Montero has promised to meet with the FEMP next September, after being asked by the president of the federation, the socialist Abel Caballero.
Before the summer holidays some air arrived for the town halls. In the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council and in the National Commission for Local Administration The refund of the VAT for 2017 was agreed, which represents 466 million for the municipalities, plus 30 of interest. The cancellation of the 2020 budget settlement, which represents more than 3,000 million for the municipalities, is also agreed. The grievance, PP sources denounce, comes later, when at the same time a fund of 13,500 million is given to the communities, which is added to the 16,000 million of 2020. “And to the municipalities, nothing,” they warn. The municipalities still do not receive the Covid fund to face the extra expenses and the drastic reduction in income due to the pandemic.
The FEMP unanimously requested a covid background of 3,000 million in 2020 for local entities to cope with the pandemic. The mayors of the PP add another 1,000 million, for the expenses of 2021. In addition, they demand one more million to face the public transport hole in towns and cities.
Along with this Covid fund, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces demanded, also unanimously, that the participation of local entities in the European reconstruction funds reached 14.16 percent, which represents the local weight in total public spending. In total it would be around 20,000 million euros. Right now, in the budgets it is foreseen that the municipalities manage 4.2 percent of the funds. A percentage that is well below that expected in other countries for local entities: in Italy it is 36 percent, in Portugal, 30 percent and in Greece, 12.75 percent.
In the headquarters of the PP, the vice-secretary of Territorial, Antonio González Terol, coordinates the action of the 2,863 ‘popular’ mayors from all over Spain to claim the funds. Its municipal power exceeds that of the PSOE, at least in the number of municipalities where it governs: there are 2,650 socialist mayors, 111 of Ciudadanos and five of Vox.
In the new political course, the mayors will return to the charge on several fronts, without ruling out taking to the streets to pressure the Government and force it not to forget the decisive role of the local entities on the first front against the pandemic. The PP will take motions to all plenary sessions to demand more funds, will request the appearance of the Minister of Finance and prepares its possible disapproval if there is no rectification in municipal policy. Along with this, the main opposition party will propose a new model of local financing, which is stable, and which solves the municipal capital gains once and for all.
The popular ones will look for the unity with other parties to defend municipal interests, something that they already achieved in the FEMP, but also in Congress, where only the PSOE and Podemos took down. “We are going to return to the attack and we hope that Minister Montero’s will for dialogue increases, or in the end we will demand her disapproval in Parliament, because she has been neglecting local entities for 17 months,” warns the PP Deputy Secretary for Territorial Affairs.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism