Councils with no debt ask for permission to spend more

Mijas Town Hall.
Mijas Town Hall. / Iván Gelibter
  • Mijas and Benahavís argue that with their healthy bank balances they should be allowed to spend in other ways, including taking on more municipal staff

Although the Ministry of Finance does plan to ease restrictions further on municipalities which have a surplus, some town halls which are in this situation but also have no debt and money in the bank are asking for more concessions now. These range from being able to employ more staff to undertaking projects which would not be considered financially sustainable.

Among these councils, Benahavís is exceptional. Its financial situation is better than any other in Spain, mainly due to the amount of income it receives in terms of town planning. Sources say it has a surplus of more than 76 million euros, but it cannot invest all of it because it would exceed the spending ceiling imposed by the Ministry of Finance. This limits the expenditure of town halls which have positive bank balances to amounts which were previously calculated in accordance with their budgets. It means that Benahavís council can only spend about 1.5 million euros a year on average, even though its surplus is very much higher.

A few days ago the mayor, José Mena, confirmed that if the town hall were able to spend more money it would either contract more staff - the council employs 125 workers in all, and there is only one civil servant in the contracting department - or would carry out a major project to benefit the village, which could be an indoor swimming pool which would cost six million euros to build, and improve the facilities of the Local Police station.

Benahavís is the municipality which has accumulated the most money in its accounts, but its situation is not the most striking in the province. Mijas, which has nearly 90,000 inhabitants and is Malaga province's third municipality, also has no debt and has just under 70 million euros in its bank accounts. As he has explained on several occasions before, the mayor, Juan Carlos Maldonado, believes it essential that the ministry eases its restrictions, especially so more staff can be employed.

The principal problem in Mijas is that the town hall loses out on around five million euros every year due to its lack of staff, because due to the zero substitution policy it is not able to replace workers who retire or are off sick. A study by the council's Treasury department shows that about 40 extra staff are needed in order to collect more money for the public coffers.