Cristobal Montoro

As reported on a number of occasions, the Spanish government are looking at various ways in which to reduce the number of politicians in the country, by slashing those at a local level, giving less autonomy to local councils in favour of larger administrative teams.

Now, the draft law on “Streamlining and Sustainability of the local authority”, which the Government presented to the Federación de Municipios y Provincias de España, or the municipalities and provinces federation, the FEMP, will lead to 92.1% of the 6,797 municipalities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants losing the management of their basic municipal services such as waste collection, street cleaning, domestic water supply, sewerage, municipal centres and road and pavement repairs.

From the 1st of January, 2014, some 6,260 local councils, or 77%, will lose control over public services, due to the “inefficiency” of these groups, according to the finance ministry. On a pro-rata basis, the cost for public services works out at three times as expensive by those contracted and operated by municipalities with more than 100,000 residents.

Whilst explaining these comparisons, Cristóbal Montoro, the Minister of Finance and Public Administrations of Spain since 22 December 2011, used the so-called “standard cost” of services, for which municipalities of more than one hundred thousand inhabitants pay 445.44 euro on average per capita for all these services, whereas those of 5,000 residents spend around 1,219.98 euro.

The larger, municipal councils, in addition to providing the services, will also take on the responsibility for collecting fees from citizens, which the finance committee state will be “less than those paid today”.

The municipalities may recover these management benefits within five years, provided they submit a viability plan that includes increased revenue and spending cuts. The Government is confident that “many” of the municipalities will manage to reverse the situation in the seven months remaining to complete the year.

This is only part of the proposals to streamline administration however, as part of these reforms there is an 870 million euro pay cut heading towards the 526,248 people who work in local government in the 8,114 municipalities, mostly to be saved in bonuses and “specific supplements” to the basic salaries, which, “public workers perceived according to the special characteristics of their job-destination, characteristics or schedule work among other criteria”.

The total amount the government are looking to save from the reform is 8 billion euro. Proof of their dedication to ensure the workability of the legislation will come from the almost immediate launch of a pilot scheme in the Diputación de Orense, where there are 92 municipalities, those with less than 5,000 residents already having their public services centralised.

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