The town of San Pedro, part of the municipality of Marbella, is celebrating being given its highest budget ever to spend on local initiatives.
In Marbella council's 2018 budget, which passed the first approval stage last Friday, San Pedro has been awarded 19.2 million euros.
The amount was agreed as part of the coalition pact between the separatist San Pedro party - OSP, and the conservative PP party that saw mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, returned to power in August.
Then the two OSP councillors swapped sides, deserting the PSOE-IU coalition and forcing a no confidence vote. At the time Muñoz told the OSP that they would get the highest level of say yet over San Pedro's affairs for supporting her. Other districts in Marbella were also given more devolved powers.
Announcing the increased San Pedro budget at a press conference on Tuesday, district mayor of San Pedro, Rafael Piña, of the OSP, said that “these are budgets that San Pedro has never had before”.
A third will go on staff
Some 36 per cent of San Pedro's devolved budget will go on staff costs. This is the first time that all employees working in the local area, except police, are to be paid by the district town hall budget. OSP councillors also have the power for the first time to give out grants to community groups and for sports and cultural events.
Marbella's councillor for overall finance, Manuel Osorio, and also the second OSP member of the council, was at the meeting. He said that the budget would allow San Pedro to place “greater emphasis on street cleansing and maintenance of parks and gardens, to meet local residents' demands”. Cleaning and maintenance department costs make up over 40 per cent of the San Pedro budget for next year.
San Pedro has always had a large share of Marbella's spending, however, up to now, the centralised departments in Marbella have made the decisions. In 2015, San Pedro had just 600,000 euros allocated to decide on locally, rising to 4.5 million in 2016 under a new PSOE-led council, 7.3 million this year and now 19.2 million in 2018, back under the PP again.
Doubt over spending limit
While San Pedro councillors were spreading the good news about their share of the Marbella budget, the opposition was complaining to central government that mayor Ángeles Muñoz appeared to be breaching a spending cap imposed on the council.
Last Friday Marbella council voted a budget of almost 246 million euros for 2018, an increase of 4.07 per cent on this year. The plans are now open to public consultation with a final vote due in December.
Caps mean that spending should drop 11 million euros in 2018. However, in a parliamentary answer to a local PSOE complaint, the finance ministry has confirmed it hasn't done a deal with Marbella's mayor to allow her to overspend. Any overspending will have to be compensated with budget cuts from 2020 onwards.