Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When times are hard, difficult decisions have to be made

The economic situation for Bigastro town council is biting hard. In December the town hall could not pay the 88,000 Euro monthly wage bill to their workers nor have they paid the summer and Christmas bonuses. The mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina Lorente, has promised that the workers will be paid their December wages later this month and then later, their January wages in February.

In a meeting with the staff, the mayor explained the situation and told them that the council will be looking to reduce the workforce by 22 per cent. Those with temporary contracts will have to go and those over 60 will be offered voluntary early retirement. In all, this plan affects between 16 to 18 of the 85 council workers.

Aurelio Murcia, for the opposition, says that the infant school, La Paz was without fuel for heating for days and that there wasn’t even the money available to put fuel in the tanks of the police vehicles. Remember, La Paz was hard hit when it had to run its lighting etc. from a diesel generator some months back so this must have come as real blow to the school. He goes on to say that the reason the indoor swimming pool has been closed since the beginning of the year is because the council does not have the money to pay for the diesel.

One area where the mayor says cuts can be made is in the use of municipal phones. The monthly bill for the town is very high especially for calls to mobiles. The mayor has therefore set out a plan which should reduce the bill by 30%.

Murcia claims that the mayor does not know what to do about the situation. In truth, I believe the mayor is now paying the price for the excesses of the previous administration. As with all local governments, when times were good and money was plentiful, the council spent and took on extra staff. Now that the bubble has burst, it is hard to make cut backs. However, it is relevant to point out that the opposition party were proposing a reduction in the council workforce at the time of the last election. But then, prosing a cut is one thing, implementing it is a lot more difficult.

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