The lady mayor of Bigastro, Charo Bañuls along with Aurelio Murcia held a meeting last night in the Auditorium to explain the financial situation.The headline news was that the council face debts of 31 million Euros. The audience of 200 were told that the council could not rule out the need to request intervention by Central administration to sort the problem out.
At the meeting, the blame for this was put squarely on the shoulders of the previous socialist administration and in particular the two previous mayors, José Joaquín Moya and Raúl Valerio Medina. The audit, commissioned when the Coalition took over control, highlights areas where accounts had been falsified and irregularities had been committed. The report showed a debt of 23,312,000 Euros added to which there were non payments of 8 million Euros - an example of which was 900,000 Euros for the construction of the indoor pool in 2007. The mayor said the final figure could be even higher because the council are still receiving bills for goods and services ordered before they took control.
Amongst the problems unearthed were unpaid promissory notes issued by the previous administration which are attracting interest. There were even lists of people, paid for out of public funds but who did not work for the council and two societies for which IVA (VAT) had not been paid.
Just as in the case of Orihuela, the audit has found items that were not budgeted for and totals for income that were simply not tenable. The council have also found also plans for construction that had not been granted approval at regional level but for which council land was sold. In the last four years, 10 million of local patrimony was sold and IVA was received but the taxes on these land sales have not been paid.
The mayor says that they will denounce the irregularities in court and will present the case to the Sindicatura de Cuentas. They will also approach the Diputación about retaining 100% of their funding because they cannot possibly face loosing money to pay their debts to Seguridad Social and Hacienda.
This year’s budget will be very austere
Anything that can be privatised will be. The swimming pool has already been shut and the adult education classes terminated. During this year we can expect more of these non essential services to be cut. In addition, those clubs and associations that previously received money from the council will have to become self funding. Most important, the council will be rigorous in its control of the collection of taxes.
PS Just to remind you, in April the Council awarded themselves the Isignia de Oro (the highest award the town can give) for their hard work in getting through a difficult period of administration.