El Salón beach in Nerja. / E. Cabezas

Costa del Sol councils demand more funding to meet extra 'floating population' costs in summer

The resident population of over one million increases exponentially during the peak holiday months. This means authorities of coastal tourist resorts have to spend a great deal more on services

A. JIMÉNEZ / E. CABEZAS Malaga

The Costa del Sol is one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, and its resident population of over one million increases exponentially during the summer. This means councils of coastal tourist resorts have to spend a great deal more on services at this time of year and they are calling on central government and the Junta de Andalucía for more funding to help them meet the extra demand.

The councils have two main sources of income: local taxes and payments from State taxes. Cities which are provincial or regional capitals and towns with a population of 75,000 or more can obtain a percentage of government income that has not been transferred to regional governments, such as income tax and IVA (Spain's value added tax). For the rest, however, the money they receive is determined by their resident population, the state of their accounts and their tax capacity. The Junta de Andalucía acts as an intermediary for the payment of this funding.

Change the system, say mayors

Many mayors want the system changed: "At president we are paid per resident, but we want the funding to be allocated according to the cost of the services we provide per person. In Marbella we spend much more than a town situated inland, because we are obliged to provide services to so many people who do not live here,” said the mayor, Ángeles Muñoz.

Maintaining the beaches is another problem, said the mayor of Estepona, José María García Urbano, pointing out that the councils feel “abandoned” because they are having to use their own funds and resources to remove Asian seaweed from their stretches of coast. The problem caused by this invasive species seriously affects the tourism sector and he believes it needs to be dealt with under a national plan. “It has cost us an extra million euros to carry out this work ourselves,” he said.

However, some mayors are not in favour of charging a tourism tax to raise funds. “It would be a bad time now, when the sector is trying to consolidate its recovery after the pandemic. What we need is something based on the number of overnight stays, visitors or accommodation booked,” Torremolinos mayor Margarita Del Cid suggested.

Others believe greater collaboration is needed between the regional government’s Tourism and Economy ministries and want more of the funds the Junta receives from Madrid to be passed to councils that need them.

The mayor of Torrox, Óscar Medina, has also stressed the extra costs involved in street cleaning in summer. In his case, the normal population of 20,000 increases to 80,000 at this time of year. “Street cleaning is one of our biggest expenses,” he said.