In the consultation procedure (alegaciones) for approving the much delayed Orihuela municipal budget for 2017, C.L.A.R.O. has submitted proposals which make major criticisms of the proposed budget and call for major increases for Orihuela Costa.
C.L.A.R.O’s main criticism is that the budget proposals fail to provide sufficient financial resources for the services and investments needed in Orihuela Costa. The proposed budget is discriminatory and continues the long history of using the income raised principally from taxpayers on the coast to provide greatly superior services and investments for Orihuela city.
The proposed budget of €83 million is based on an increase in revenue of €8.8m compared to 2016, €5 million of which is raised directly from Orihuela Costa. The major sources of this increased income are a rise in the local property tax (IBI) of 7.5% and sale of municipal land valued at €1.6 million for investments. The coast is responsible for some 60% of the municipal income and gets in return only a few percentages points of expenditure.
The sale of municipal land essentially located on the coast and sold for new house building is a long standing practice of the Orihuela local governments which systematically fail to use the funds for investments on the coast. The stock of municipal land on the coast is being steadily depleted and leaves insufficient land for needed investments in, for example, a new medical centre, facilities for the elderly and the young and a much needed library and cultural centre – Orihuela city has three libraries and two cultural venues to which a third will be added with the revamping of the ruined bullfighting arena.
The Popular Party/Citizens governing coalition claims that Orihuela Costa will get an extra €1.8 million for external contracts for maintenance of parks and gardens, street and pavement repairs and beaches compared to the 2016 budget. This is equal to an increase of 19% of the extra €9.5 million in running costs planned for 2017, nothing like the 30% of the ever increasing population of the coast in the total population of the municipality.
To add insult to injury, the budget for street cleaning and rubbish removal costs has been reduced by €1 million compared to 2016. This is a completely cynical blow to the coast which has notorious problems of street cleaning and rubbish removal, in particular garden waste which can lie rotting on the pavements and streets for long periods of time.
Equally cynical is the failure to respect the principle, to which all parties agreed in 2012 when C.L.A.R.O. had an elected councillor, that 40% of investments would be directed to Orihuela Costa in recognition of the historical deficiency of investments in the coast and in recognition of the budgetary contribution of coastal residents and taxpayers.
The author of the 2012 budget was none other than Juan Ignacio Lopez Bas the present deputy Mayor and leader of the Citizens Party to which they switched just before the elections in 2015. The combined total of investments in 2017 including those in the proposed budget and those previously announced is almost €13 million. The share of Orihuela Costa will be no more than 20%, half of the previously agreed principle that 40% of investments should go to the coast.
Since most of this investment income comes from the sale of municipal land on the coast for increased house building, implying an ever increasing population with a zero increase in the services provided, coastal residents are being subject to multiple discriminations.
In C.L.A.R.O’s proposals for modifications in the proposed 2017 budget we seek extra expenditure for social services, including a day centre in the Savia care home for retired residents, extra personnel for the Playa Flamenca Town Hall to improve the efficiency of services to citizens, a reduction in the charges of the privately managed municipal sports centre, extra expenditure on essential services like street cleaning and rubbish removal, measures to reduce traffic congestion in the area of the La Zenia roundabout and Avenida Villamartin leading to La Zenia Boulevard and completion of the so-called “via parallela” the almost completed system of linked roads running parallel to the N332 which would also relieve congestion caused by the new commercial centre.
We also insist on pedestrian bridges over the N332 at Alameda del Mar for access to Cala Mosca and over the AP-7 between Campoamor and Lomas de Cabo Roig for which no new budgetary funds are needed since there is a builders deposit available for many years destined for this purpose. Without a pedestrian crossing, the increasing population of Lomas de Cabo Roig risk their lives using the road bridge over the motorway to access the medical centre, shops and beaches of Campoamor. Finally the C.L.A.R.O. proposals ridicule the amount of €50,000 included in the budget for the study of a cultural/social centre with library.
At this rate the completion of a social/cultural centre will drag on as long as the still incomplete Emergency Services Centre, the foundation stone for which was laid 10 years ago! The truth is that a social/cultural centre should already have been built on the municipally owned land now serving as part of the car park for La Zenia Boulevard. It would in part redress the imbalance which exists between city and coast where the city, with a similar size population, has its three libraries and two, soon to be three, cultural venues.
Will the governing Popular Party and Citizens coalition pay any notice to these fair and reasonable proposals for the 2017 budget, shared by numerous other associations on the coast, to reduce some of the discriminations imposed on Orihuela Costa? We have no illusions.
The Orihuela government has no sense of duty towards the coast which it continues to milk for its political benefit in Orihuela city. This is why the major demonstrations of anger on the coast which we have seen in the Town Hall meeting of 4 August and, embarrassingly for the government, at the starting line in Campoamor of the Costa Blanca stage of La Vuelta round Spain cycle race on 27 August will no doubt continue until justice is finally delivered to the long suffering residents of Orihuela Costa.