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Catalonia defends its exclusive power to manage local councils and notes that 90% of Catalan councillors do not earn a salary

The Catalan Government and most of the political parties have criticised the Spanish Government’s project to reduce local powers. Furthermore, the Catalan Vice-President, Joana Ortega, emphasised the “unfair vision” of local governments given by the Spanish Finance Minister. Ortega underlined that in Catalonia, most of the town halls ended 2012 with a budget deficit of 0%, which is “not in line with the mismanagement image given” by the Spanish Government. Furthermore, while the Spanish Government is aiming to reduce the number of councillors earning a salary to only 18%, Ortega reminded them that in Catalonia only 10% are now earning a salary. Political parties in Catalonia criticised the Spanish Government for taking away power from the government level closest to the citizens.

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15 February 2013 11:13 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government and most of the political parties have criticised the Spanish Government\u2019s project to reduce local powers, announced on Friday after the weekly Cabinet Meeting. The Vice-President of the Catalan Executive, Joana Ortega, emphasised the \u201Cunfair vision\u201D of local governments given by the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro. Ortega underlined the fact that in Catalonia most of the town halls ended 2012 with a budget deficit of 0%, which is \u201Cnot in line with the mismanagement image given\u201D by Montoro. Furthermore, while the Spanish Government is aiming to reduce the number of councillors with exclusive dedication who earn a salary to only 18% of the current total, Ortega reminded them that in Catalonia this figure represents now only 10% of the total. Furthermore, she noted that the Catalan Government has exclusive power regarding the organisation of local governments and town halls, and asked the Spanish Government \u201Cto respect the legal framework\u201D and to not invade its jurisdiction with the new law. In fact, most of the Catalan parties \u2013 all of them except the Spanish nationalist People\u2019s Party (running the Spanish Government) and Ciutadans \u2013 have criticised Montoro\u2019s new law for trying once again \u201Cto recentralise Spain\u201D and taking power away from the government level closest to the citizens.


On Friday, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro \u2013 who is also in charge of public administration \u2013 announced a new law by which 82% of Spain\u2019s councillors will not receive a salary. Therefore, out from the 62,285 of councilmen and councilwomen in Spain, only 12,128 of them will have an exclusive dedication to their task and receive a salary according to the new project of law. The rest will not be paid and their job will be on voluntary terms. In addition, the mayors of towns and villages with less than 1,000 inhabitants will also not be paid. Furthermore, Montoro plans to limit the salaries of councillors and mayors, corresponding to the size of their town.

Barcelona, despite healthy finances, also affected

This measure particularly affects Barcelona City Council, which is the second largest local government in Spain, with an annual spending of some \u20AC2.3 billion. Barcelona, despite the fact that it showed healthy public finances, with a 0.0% deficit, in 2012, and it has a special charter considering its importance \u2013 a sort of local constitution \u2013, it will also be affected by the new law. Barcelona's Mayor will drop from having an annual gross salary of around \u20AC140,000 to \u20AC100,000. Furthermore, under the new law, 9 out of the 41 elected members of the Catalan capital\u2019s City Council will not have an exclusive dedication to the job and will not be paid at all. This means that fewer councillors controlling the local government and a \u20AC2.3 billion budget will have an exclusive dedication and will be paid.

Less power for local governments and greater risk of intervention

Montoro\u2019s project also includes the stipulation that in less than 1 year, local governments will have to give the power of managing social policies to the Autonomous Communities. In addition, the power to manage education centres will also have to be transferred within the next five years. However, the project of the law includes the possibility to reach a special agreement between the town halls and autonomous communities, making this transfer unnecessary. Montoro also stated that local governments might have direct intervention by the Spanish Government if they fail to meet their fiscal obligations. In addition, from now on, they will not be authorised to open new public companies and \u201Cthe existing ones will have to be restructured or shut down\u201D.

Transferring power to the provincial councils

The Spanish Government\u2019s law foresees that municipalities with less than 20,000 inhabitants that are not able to pay for their services will have to transfer them to the Provincial Councils. The objective is to professionalize the management of public services at a local level and make Provincial Councils \u201Cthe great service managers for smaller municipalities\u201D. In Catalonia, this is done between the County Councils and the Provincial Councils. In fact, Catalan parties agreed to gradually rationalise this years ago by fully eliminating the provincial councils and reducing the number of county councils by merging some of them into a new intermediate government level. However, this agreement was blocked by the Spanish Parliament and consequently the reform is still pending and is a recurrent debate issue in Catalonia.

The Catalan Government\u2019s jurisdiction might be invaded

The Vice-President of the Catalan Government has defended Catalonia\u2019s right to organise its own local government levels, as is recognised in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, approved by the Spanish Parliament and by the Catalan people via a binding referendum in 2006. Therefore, Ortega, from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), asked the Spanish Government \u201Cto respect legality\u201D and stop constantly invading the Catalan Government\u2019s jurisdiction. Ortega insisted that the Catalan Executive will defend its own exclusive powers and will not accept interferences from the Spanish Government.

Many Catalan parties criticise the decision

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) stated that the Spanish Government\u2019s reform \u201Cis an unacceptable attack\u201D on the Catalan Government\u2019s own powers. In addition, the ERC stated that the Catalan town halls risk an intervention by Madrid and therefore of being \u201Cabsolutely dominated\u201D by the Spanish Government. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) accused the Spanish Government of \u201Crecentralising Spain\u201D. \u201CIt is a regression that we cannot tolerate\u201D, they stated. In addition, they stated that \u201Cit is a great political mistake\u201D as it \u201Cit is not thought through following the citizens' interest\u201D since it \u201Cputs power away from citizens\u201D. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) considered the reform planned by the Spanish Executive to be part of the \u201CPeople\u2019s Party\u2019s offensive to privatise and dismantle the public sector\u201D. According to them, the reform \u201Cweakens\u201D town halls, with less power, less democracy and less funding. It is therefore an \u201Cattack against social cohesion and the public services that are currently guaranteed by the municipalities\u201D.

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  • Cristóbal Montoro announcing the Spanish Government new law on municipalities (by Moncloa)

  • Cristóbal Montoro announcing the Spanish Government new law on municipalities (by Moncloa)