Residents turn out in force on Friday in front of the Playa Flamenca Town Hall to demand a better deal for the Orihuela Costa.
Organised by the Association of Residents and Merchants “Movimiento Ciudadano La Zenia” over 200 people took part in a peaceful demonstration in support of “A fair deal for the Orihuela Costa.”
This is the second time that such a demonstration has been held, the previous in July of 2014 when over a hundred of residents protested on the roundabout in front of La Zenia Boulevard, once again demanding better services for the people of the Orihuela Costa.
Friday’s demonstration was held for essentially the same purpose, to once again demand that the City Council recognise the Orihuela Costa and its growing number of residents, particularly when making budget allocations.
Association President, Félix Arenas, said on the Town Hall steps that he was delighted to see such a positive turnout. “People are tired of always hearing the same promises and the same excuses from the Orihuela politicians, who are denounced virtually every day on social media sites for the lack of importance they place on the coast. Our Facebook page is full of photographs showing the deplorable state of the coastal area which the authorities constantly ignore.”
Residents claim that there is an unfair and disproportionate distribution of the municipal budgets regarding the Orihuela Costa, and a lack of transparency in councillors responding to the letters and complaints that are regularly submitted.
As well as deploring the state of cleanliness on the coast they also demanded better safety measures and pedestrian signalling at the crossings along the Villamartín Ctra., the completion of the emergency centre in the Orihuela Costa, the removal of the toll on the AP-7 as it passes through La Zenia, and the replacement of the bus stop previously removed from La Zenia.
Following speeches in front of the Town Hall the protestors then moved inside, grateful to be out of the sun, where they took up residence for almost an hour in the salon, and where speeches continued from demonstration leaders.
The arrival of the mayor, Emilio Bascuñana, was greeted with booing from some members of the audience, but when he put down the microphone and threatened to leave, all went quiet. Most of what he did say put the blame on previous governments, but he stated that residents on the coast would see improvements with the approval of the 2017 budget.
One further promise he made was the construction of a Multicultural centre which he said had already been allocated 50,000 euro. He also confirmed the reinstatement of the bus stop in La Zenia and completion of the Emergency Centre, which he said would shortly be put out to tender.
One voluble Spanish resident was clearly unimpressed as he stood and left the salon shouting ‘Blah, blah, blah,’ presumably his non too inspiring opinion on what the mayor had to say!
Coinciding with Friday’s demonstration was the press release from the Federation of Associations of Orihuela Costa (FAOC) demanding a better deal for the Coast in the 2017 budget, which is still to be approved by the Orihuela Council. They say that the element allocated to the coastal region falls far short of its needs.
The Group adds that it does not intend to enter into debate about how much should be allocated to the coast, nor of the comparative grievances with regard to the allocation as it is divided between the city, its outlying pedanias and the coast, but what they do insist upon is that the council must cover the needs of each, and in so doing they must also recognise the very different needs of the Orihuela Costa.
They also highlight the debacle regarding the increase in IBI, Property Tax, where the residents of Orihuela pay one of the highest tax rates in the area (0.75%), compared to Torrevieja (0.425% ), Pilar de la Horadada (0.517%), San Pedro del Pinatar (0.690%) and San Miguel de las Salinas (0.65%).
But having analysed the provisional budget allocations recently announced by the council FAOC say that it is clear to see that the coast will continue to suffer a significant deficit, which will be reflected in a lack of policing, cleanliness and refuse collection, road safety as well as the funding allocated to celebrations and fiestas.
They state that the staff operating from the Town Hall in Playa Flamenca will maintain their poor level of attention to the public, not able to increase their number as is required, and the maintenance of infrastructure will remain at a level which is well below their requirements.
There is also concern and disappointment that such important matters as the collection of waste, street and urban cleaning, will continue to go from bad to worse, given its low funding, so that residents will continue to suffering from the inadequacies that stem from the lack of employees on the coast, from machines and containers, as well as the inadequate system for the collection of garden waste and bulk rubbish, as it regularly remains scattered across the streets of the coast for long periods of time.
Similarly the budget for Beaches is totally insufficient to carry out the necessary investments that are required with regards to access, particularly for the infirm and disabled, beach furniture and cleanliness, in order to keep them at the same level of quality as our neighbours.
Nor is there funding available for the construction of the frequently promised Multicultural Centre, staff to manage the Citizen Participation Centre (former reading point), so that it can be opened and the local population encouraged to use it, and the too few sports areas on the coast will remain abandoned and unavailable to the local youth, as will the council’s promises of the construction of a football field and a skate park.
The section covering Coastal Investment also treats the Orihuela Costa very badly, where, of the investments of 2017 which will reach a total of almost 14 million euros, all of it derived from the sale of public land on the coast, only 2 million euros, or 15% of the total, will be dedicated to the coast, to be used for the refurbishment of the seafront (500,000 euros), tarmac roads (the 500,000 euros allocated is well below the amount required), improvement of Contracts for maintenance of parks and gardens (300,000 euros), and other areas.
All these observations and requests, which still remain unresolved, were presented to the mayor in September of last year during the campaign in preparation the 2017 Budgets. Now it has become clearly evident that this was nothing more than a marketing operation by the Ayuntamiento.
FAOC and its associates, through this statement, wish to make public the voice of the coastal communities, who feel betrayed by the budgets that, far from reducing the historical deficit that they constantly suffer in services and infrastructures, will only enlarge the gap.
It seems now, that at long last, the Coastal Associations are beginning to come together which can only be good news for the residents of the coast in their demands for a fair deal for the Orihuela Costa, and the fact that the mayor was able to see first-hand the strength of feeling at the demonstration should certainly have him deliberating when making future allocations!