It has been revealed that the municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar have a collective debt totalling 395 million euros. It is probably much higher because it will have increased since the figures were compiled.
Algeciras, by far the largest town in the region, has a public debt of 163.1 million euros, the equivalent of 1,431 euros per inhabitant. The second largest municipality, the border town of La Línea owes at least 95.8 million euros or 1,504 euros per citizen.
Indeed every municipality in the area, except rural Castellar, is in the red including my own. Some of this debt is with private companies but the majority is with the State (largely the tax and social security agencies) so the funding from Madrid is often withheld as La Línea and Los Barrios know to their cost. La Línea has also been expelled from the Cádiz fire fighting consortium because of its debts to the organisation.
There is nothing new in a municipality owing money – indeed it is the norm throughout Spain. What is different now is our own financial position. In good times with high employment, easy finance, booming companies, we shrugged our shoulders. Now as unemployment grows, mortgages or car loans are hard to come buy, the construction and tourism industries are in turmoil, this debt has become personal.
Some of these debts have been run-up in corrupt practices or mismanagement others have been incurred trying to offer basic services with inadequate funding. This latter situation has seen the Izquierda Unida mayors and councillors in Andalucía take the case for better funding from the regional government to Sevilla. In addition the IU in Málaga province says it will stage a series of demonstrations ending with a rally in Málaga city in late December and January.
The IU maintains that there is insufficient funding for the town halls. It says it is demanding “money for the municipalities, for the people and for the policies that they are applying”. Few would argue with that but if and when that money comes it must be used to reduce the debts and provide services and not to enrich those elected to handle our local affairs.
Sadly whilst our town halls are laden with debt the confidence of residents in their mayors and councillors is also deeply in the red!