Unions and municipalities criticise the Spanish Government for not reducing its structure
Trade unions and the two associations of municipalities in Catalonia have issued a joint manifesto to protest against the Spanish Government’s Local Administration Reform. This reform recentralises powers and services, reducing the municipalities’ capacities and transferring resources to the Provincial Councils, political bodies associated to Spanish centralism and whose members are not directly-elected. The manifesto criticises the Spanish Government “for not having faced any significant reform of its heavy structure”, despite managing 53% of Spain’s public expenditure. The Spanish Government is also forcing the Autonomous Communities to reduce their services and structures.
Barcelona (ACN).- The two main trade unions (CCOO and UGT) and the two associations of municipalities in Catalonia (FMC and ACM) have issued a joint manifesto to protest against the Spanish Government’s Reform on Local Administration. This reform recentralises powers and services, reducing the municipalities’ capacities and transferring resources to the Provincial Councils, political bodies associated to Spanish centralism and whose members are not directly-elected. The manifesto criticise the Spanish Government “for not having faced any significant reform of its heavy structure”, despite managing 53% of Spain’s public expenditure. Instead, the Spanish Executive forces the other government levels – Autonomous Communities and municipalities – to drastically reduce spending, services and structures, with a clear recentralisation aim. Last week, the Spanish Executive published a report recommending the elimination of several Catalan institutions and recentralising the services they are offering. The joint manifesto states that the Local Administration Reform represents “an involution”, which will result in “greater inequalities as well as making the situation worse by closing services affecting our neighbours and public employment”. The signing organisations have suggested to carry out a coordinated protest throughout Catalonia by gathering in front of each town hall next Thursday at noon.
The Workers Commissions (CCOO), the General Union of Workers (UGT), the Catalan Association of Municipalities (ACM) and Catalonia’s Federation of Municipalities (FMC) released on Tuesday a joint manifesto against the Spanish Government’s Reform of Local Governments, which is likely to be approved next week at the Spanish Senate. The signing organisations particularly criticise the Spanish Executive for aiming to reform all the other levels of government but not its own structure. They argue that the Spanish Government manages 53% of all the public money in Spain. Despite this fact, “it has not faced any important reform of its heavy structure”.
In fact, Madrid has been hosting for decades ministries full of civil servants with almost no political powers, such as the Spanish Ministries of Education, Culture or Health. Most of these powers were transferred in the 1980s to the Autonomous Communities and yet the Spanish Government’s structures continued to exist as if nothing had changed. In the last few years, with the economic crisis as an excuse, the Spanish Executive has been trying to take powers back, for instance with its Education Reform, which recentralises part of the powers in this area. Another example of this recentralisation is the Market Unity Law, which significantly reduces the Autonomous Communities' capacity to issue economic regulations and implementing their own policies in several fields related to economic activities.
A hidden Constitutional Reform
Many people have voiced that these recentralisation initiatives were a true hidden reform of the Spanish Constitution. Paradoxically the People’s Party – running the Spanish Government – totally refuses to change the Constitution but it already amended it two years ago to include debt and deficit limitations following the recommendations of the European Central Bank and the German Government.
The Spanish Government is by far the main responsible for Spain’s public debt
The manifesto issued today portrays the Spanish Government as directly responsible for the high public debt levels. Furthermore, it highlights that the Autonomous Communities manage “the back bone of the Welfare State”, since they exclusively fund public education, healthcare and social policies.
The Spanish Executive is managing 53% of Spain’s entire public spending, while in 2010 it was managing 51%, thereby showing the recentralisation trend. Last June, the Spanish Government had a debt of €796.82 billion, representing 76.2% of Spain’s GDP and 86.3% of the country’s total public debt (€928.83 billion), far above the 53% of public money that it manages. Besides, the debt of the Social Security – managed by the Spanish Government – reached €17.19 billion (1.6% of the GDP). Local governments had a debt of 42.79 billion, representing 4.1% of Spain’s GDP and 4.6% of Spain’s total debt. The Autonomous Communities had a total debt of €189.59 billion, representing 18.1% of the Spanish GDP and 20.4% of the total debt.
For the trade unions and municipality association, the Local Administration Reform “expresses the objectives of recentralisation, control and limitation of local autonomy” that the Spanish Government wants to undertake. They ask for “a model of powers and public services” based on “proximity” criteria. Furthermore, they state that whether the local governments have to be reformed, such reform has to be undertaken with “a wide consensus, institutional loyalty and without easy stigmatizations”.
The Spanish Government ignores alternative proposals
The signing organisation criticise the fact that their proposals on “more viable and efficient scenarios” never got a reply from the Spanish Government. “The autism and poor will to cooperate shown by the Spanish State has been, at least, disappointing”, states the manifesto. Furthermore, they emphasised that “if the local government has a problem – and it has had it for a long while – it is its funding scheme”. Any reform of the local administration has to come with a revision of its funding scheme, they explained, in order to solve “the unfairness of the last 35 years” and to “pair it with the real needs of the government level closer to the citizens”. In this vein, they stated that “it is very difficult to consider that a supra-municipal body will substitute the knowledge and sensitivity of the local issues of a town hall”.