The figures are interesting. The town hall calculates that around 250,000 people live in Marbella, but according to the latest population register, the 'padrón', which was updated at the beginning of this year, the municipality only has 147,248 residents (6,076 more than a year previously). The others, around 100,000 people, don't live in Marbella all the time, just at certain times of the year. Of those 100,000 it is estimated that around 60 per cent are foreigners.
The council has just started a campaign to encourage these people to register on the 'padrón'. Although the campaign is directed at everybody in the town, there is a special emphasis on the foreign population, especially in districts such as Nueva Andalucía and Las Chapas.
After "several months of work" with the foreign community, the town hall has decided that the most direct way to reach these residents is to talk to them about matters which interest them most, such as safety, health and cleaning, says Oti García, the head of the Foreigners Department. The campaign therefore illustrates how services such as safety, health and cleaning are affected by the number of people on the population register.
"Many services depend on that, because the funding from the State and the regional government is allocated according to the number of people registered," says the mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, about the campaign which will be featured on social media, hoardings, in the press, leaflets and on the Foreigners Department website at www.marbella.es.
The campaign will explain to people that 1,000 more people on the population register would mean that Marbella could have one more firefighter; 2,500 more registrations would mean four more Local Police officers and a new rubbish collection lorry; and 3,200 more people on the register would give Marbella two new police vehicles, four more officers and more materials.
The campaign has also been designed in different languages: as well as Spanish, it is in English, German, Russian, French and Italian. It aims to raise awareness of the numerous social benefits to the town, such as additional police officers, gardeners and health centres, if more people are on the population register.
Muñoz stresses something she has already emphasised in talks with local associations and in the campaign: "It is very simple to register and it has nothing whatsoever to do with people's tax situation. Being on the population register doesn't mean any change to their tax situation at all, it is important to make that very clear," she says. "On the contrary, there are personal and collective benefits to being registered."
One of the benefits for foreign residents is that being on the population register means they can vote in municipal and European elections. In fact, with council elections being just a few months away, the town hall is keen for the electoral roll to be expanded.
Oti García says that in order to vote, people need to be on the population register but they also have to register their intention to vote. This is something that can be done at any time of year, but from now on the town hall will be giving people the relevant form when they go to register on the 'padrón'.
"For the past year and a half they weren't giving the voting form to people when they went to register, so it is important for foreign residents to realise that if they do want to vote they need to get one of these forms and present it filled in before 15 December," she says.