The town hall in Mijas is to throw a lifeline to potentially thousands of local self-employed and small firms, with payouts of between 3,000 to 6,000 euros for those worst hit by coronavirus.
Mayor Josele González said this week that the council will not wait any longer for the government to abolish spending caps on councils' surpluses, despite doubts about whether his initiative is legal.
He plans to modify his budget and use all accumuated surplus funds, some 140 million euros, over the remainder of this year and into 2021, to introduce measures which no other town hall - in Malaga province, at least - has proposed so far.
The measures will start to come into effect within a few days. A total of 12 million euros is being allocated to help self-employed people and small firms who are tax resident in Mijas and who have lost 50 per cent or more of their income. They may apply even if they are receiving assistance from the Junta de Andalucía or the national government.
Plan Mijas 20-21 also includes 117.2 million euros for public works, which the council believes will create more than 2,500 new jobs in the sector. "Of the total, 57.2 million euros will be for projects which are already planned and the remaining 60 million will be used for 30 new ones which are currently being drawn up," said the mayor.
Social Services will be allocated five million euros, double the amount originally planned, to help families at greatest risk, and this may be increased if necessary. The plan also strengthens employment in more critical sectors, with six million euros being allocated for Mijas Servicios Complementarios to find work for those at risk of social exclusion. Finally some business taxes will be waived for the rest of this year and new fiscal incentives may also be introduced.
There are, however, some doubts about the legality of this move, especially as the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, has said that councils are only authorised to use no more than 20 per cent of their surplus from the previous year for matters relating to the health crisis. They are also able to use another percentage for sustainable investments, in other words only those which will not need maintenance in the future.
The council insists that their Plan Mijas is legal. "All the measures are covered by the regulations. It is not the first time this council has made a significant change to its budget," says González, who has also spoken to the Spanish federation of municipalities and provinces (FEMAP) and says they "recommend" this type of action.
"The public authorities closest to the people are the ones with the resources to provide a solution to problems. We hope the government frees up the use of all the 10 billion euros which councils hold in surpluses," said González.
González's PSOE has a majority on the council, so he can guarantee the proposals will be approved in forthcoming council meetings.