How much do you ‘Have your say’?


January 23, 2018

The attention-grabbing headline on the front page of your latest edition, “Have your say” regarding the Orihuela town hall proposal for citizens to submit ideas and vote on schemes for this year’s budget, gives the impression that a big, generous, democratic initiative has been taken.
Reading the details in the article immediately makes clear that this is not the case.
Orihuela-registered citizens are invited to make proposals equal to €660,000. Last year’s budget was some €85,000,000. On this basis, the initiative relates to 0.78% of this year’s prospective budget. Hardly a groundbreaking initiative. What is more, the €660,000 total is to be distributed in equal shares to the 11 districts which have been designated to cover the whole municipality. €60,000 each district means citizens are invited to consider directly 0.08% of the prospective budget.
Orihuela Costa, with some 28,000 registered residents, equal to nearly 40% of the total registered population of Orihuela, has two of the 11 districts, about 18% of the total of 11 and correspondingly will receive some 18% of the €660,000 – less than half of the share of the coast in the registered population of Orihuela. The real taxpaying population of the coast is probably nearer 50% of the total population.
It is obvious that the discrimination against Orihuela Costa which contributes some 60% of the town hall income is inbuilt and institutionalised.
When it comes to real money, the discrimination against the coast is blatant. In 2017 the total amount available for investments was some €12.8 million. Orihuela Costa will receive some €2 million, less than 20%. This discrimination is historic. It is not surprising that Orihuela Costa has no cultural or social centre and no proper professionally staffed library. The city has three libraries which provide opportunities for study for young people as well as leisure reading.
In your same edition, page 5, you reported that Orihuela town hall had allocated some €400,000 to revamping the abandoned bullring in Orihuela city, providing for the city the third venue for cultural events, in addition to the Teatro Circo and the Lonja. Other recent investment decisions benefiting the city include restoring the Rubalcaba palace (€1.9m), the industrial estate (€1.6m), and the Paseo Andennes (€0.8m).
The city and the coast have more or less equal populations of registered residents but nowhere near an equal share of municipal facilities.
The big question on which the voice of Orihuela Costa residents should be heard is the distribution of the estimated €14.5 million which the town hall will obtain this year from the further sale of municipally-owned land, mainly of course in Orihuela Costa. If the coast does not receive at least 40% of this sum, the failure to provide the coast with a fair and democratic allocation of the town hall’s funds will be demonstrable and Orihuela Costa will be able to draw the appropriate political conclusions.
The citizens’ participation headlined in last week’s edition of Costa Blanca News will have little concrete importance for the municipality. However, it provides a smokescreen for the current Popular Party-Ciudadanos (Citizens Party) government to hide the continuing, blatant discrimination against Orihuela Costa which they are perpetuating.
Bob Houliston

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