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Formentera plenary accepts €23.8m budget for 2017

foto conseller presidentToday at its November plenary, the Formentera Council granted preliminary approval for the administration's 2017 budget. “Yes” votes were cast by Gent x Formentera and the socialist party while Compromís opted for abstention and Partido Popular voted against the measure. As tax office councillor Bartomeu Escandell pointed out, the budget's nearly €24m total marks a 6.91-per cent increase on the 2016 figure (€22.8m).

Escandell also highlighted a few changes, like money for a traffic inspection crew, plus funding to expand Formentera's lifeguard and rescue service, fire brigade, school of music, childcare services, cleaning crews and administrative staff.

He added that Formentera currently has no debt, though said that could change with the Council's projected assumption of a loan linked to Consorci Formentera Desenvolupament.

On other spending, Escandell referred to “recent improvements in Formentera's residential and tourist urban zones, development of green and sustainable transport solutions, upgrades of out-of-use heritage sites and a continued push for community involvement through Formentera's Council of Entities.

José Manuel Alcaraz, spokesman of Partido Popular, bemoaned the absence of tax cuts in the budget, while Ana Juan, spokeswoman for  Partido Socialista, opined that the forecast was “very close” to her own group's vision for the island, citing projects like safety upgrades on camí Vell de la Mola alongside Formentera's football pitch. Explaining the group's abstention on the vote, Compromís's spokesperson said: “It's got plenty of good parts and then some not-so good parts”.

Other agreements
The plenary brought unanimous approval for a deal with Grup d'Acció Local to support local fishing, as well as a call from the socialist group for an educational effort to familiarise local associations with the technicalities of grant requests.

Another measure that received unanimous approval (excluding abstention from Partido Popular's) dealt with the language used on future roads and urban arterials. A forthcoming measure will address the official name of the island's new industrial park.

Verbal report from Sònia Cardona
This month's plenary featured an account from councillor of community involvement Sònia Cardona, who described her office's goal as “bringing resident participation to the fore of the administration's decision-making process”.

“We are seeing that local mobilisation can influence the decisions that are made,” Cardona said, pointing to the creation of local participatory budgets and the popular effort to stop a plan to move Formentera's landing at the Eivissa port.

Cardona trumpeted the list of 96 groups that make up the island's association registry and reported on recent upgrades of audio and IT equipment at the local space for associations, the Casal d'Entitats.

Council's 2017 budget tops €23 million

foto president consellerJaume Ferrer was joined today by Bartomeu Escandell in unveiling the Formentera Council's 2017 budget. At an 11.00am gathering in the administration's plenary hall, the president and tax office councillor shared that the annual budget reached 23.8 million euros, up 6.91% from 2016's €22,275,000 figure.

Economic backdrop
The Council's 2017 financial forecast comes in the context of exceedingly trying —and increasingly unpredictable— economic conditions globally. Next year, barring unforeseen changes, experts predict a shrinking of the Spanish and Eurozone GDPs. Eivissa and Formentera, nevertheless, are at the head of economic growth in the Balearics, a trend unchanged in recent years.

Revenues and spending
New in this year's list of expenditures is a line item for a traffic inspection crew. Additional spending goes to expanding Formentera's lifeguard and rescue service, fire brigade, school of music, childcare services, cleaning crews and administrative staff.

The island currently has zero debt, although financing is envisioned to take on a loan tied to Formentera's development consortium (CFd) through BMN. Revenue growth is projected on the back of increasingly efficient tax checks.

Focal points of local investment include improvement projects in residential and tourist urban zones, green and sustainable transport solutions, upgrades of out-of-use local heritage sites (a joint venture with the Formentera Council of Entities) and public service improvements. A line item of €2.15m is reserved for improvements in es Pujols and another €100k will go to preservation efforts at Estany des Peix. La Mola's lighthouse will also receive the same €100k sum for use in cultural endeavours. An additional line item earmarks €325k for budgetary investments through the Council of Entities.

Govern to spend €13 million on Formentera in 2017

foto presentacio pressupostosCatalina Cladera, minister of the tax office in Palma, together with the Govern balear's director general of budgets and finances, Joan Carrió, presented today the Balearic Islands' 2017 budget for Formentera. Also on hand for the gathering were Formentera Council (CiF) president Jaume Ferrer, economy councillor Bartomeu Escandell and the rest of the local councillors comprising the island's governing team.

According to Cladera, the draft law underpinning the region's general 2017 budget for Formentera sets out €13.1 million, or an 8.9% increase on the funding received by the CiF in 2016. Meanwhile, financing from the Govern and a consortium of public sector agencies (referred to as Sector Públic Instrumental) will grow 1.5% percent.

Of the total figure, €6.1m will be paid out in current transfers as per the regional law on funding for the island councils (€5.9m of which is an advance on the 2017 package and €0.2m is payment of an advance from 2015). The figure is up €0.5m, or 8.9%, from the amount received in 2016.

Capital investment on Formentera, both from the ministries of the regional government in Palma and public sector agencies, has climbed 1.5% to €5.6m. The lion's share of the upswing will be in water treatment and in education.

Councillor Escandell, of the tax office, hailed the €500,000 year-on-year budget ascension, a change he said would be reflected in priority actions at the Sant Ferran primary school (which has a line item of €1.5m) and environmental projects like water treatment plant maintenance and operationalising the new irrigation reservoir.

Escandell also alluded to plans by Silvia Tur, a representative in the Balearic parliament, to present amendments requesting Formentera's budgetary allocation be increased. Of the different amendments, the most noteworthy relates to a deal struck between the CiF and the Govern and entails more money to cover costs of rubbish transfer. It is hoped that the €550,000 initially set aside by the Palma administration can be raised so as to cover 100% of waster transfer costs —roughly €1m— by the end of the current legislative session.

At plenary, council members urge scuppering Balearic Sea petroleum explorations

Foto ple juny 2016Earlier today the Formentera Council convened its June plenary session. Members unanimously passed a proposal to urge the regional environment ministry in Palma to disqualify Spectrum's overdue environmental impact study on oil and gas exploration in the Balearic Sea. CiF environment councillor Daisee Aguilera explained that, if allowed to go ahead, the activity could take place “a mere 20 kilometres from the Pitiüsa Islands and cover an area of 14,000 square metres”. The Council has requested the project be cancelled. Explaining the Council's stance, Aguilera cited the fact the completed study came due April 20 and the Govern Balear Ministry of Environment's extension on the deadline came a month and a half late.

Plenary members also voted unanimously to pass a joint proposal encouraging “respect and visibility for sexual and gender diversity”. Social welfare councillor Vanessa Parellada thanked all the political groups for backing the proposal, which she described as a way to “show support for the law guaranteeing legal protection for lesbian, gay, transexual, bisexual and intersex individuals, wipe out sex- and gender-based fears and assert the Council's commitment to LGTBI groups.” On that note, it was announced that on June 28, the Council would raise a rainbow pride flag in celebration of World Pride Day.

Excepting a “no” vote from Partido Popular, the day's plenary session brought unanimous approval for a bid to change the official form of address for council members from honorable to senyor (sir) or senyora (madam), a measure aimed at decreasing the divide between elected officials and locals. Unanimous go-ahead was also given to a proposal to draft an official declaration celebrating June 14, national Spanish sign language day.

The vice-president and councillor of the president's office, the tax office and the office of rural affairs, Bartomeu Escandell, addressed plenary members today. Speaking about work in the president's office, Escandell highlighted recent work with the CiF chair to organise and coordinate government and administration operations. “One of the Council's top priorities,” he declared, “is to ensure unity and cohesion in a group of such varied political backgrounds”.

By contrast, Escandell identified the tax office as the “CiF division with the fewest changes under foot”. He claimed a responsible management was behind the success of the Council's budget stabilising efforts. According to the councillor, the yearly budget stands at roughly 22 million euros and the Council is able to earmark money for re-investment, something he called “fundamental for a place like Formentera that lives off of tourism”.

Ca ses Castellones
Councillor Escandell shared his concern over the “economic impact of a judge's ruling on the Ca ses Castellones case requiring the CiF to pay 1.5m euros”. Aside from financial considerations, the councillor had a broader critique to make, for society in general and local politicians in particular. He called the present case “a clear example of the pitfalls of rash decision making” and recalled the chain of events between 2003 and 2005 that saw the PP —with backing from GUIF and PREF— sidestep construction restrictions at the site and sign a building permit just one week before the project faced review. The upshot, he explained, is that the Council has been asked to pick up what started out as a 5m euro tab. Susana Labrador, spokesperson for Gent per Formentera, called on the PP to “assume political responsibility for the repercussions of the ruling”.

Rural affairs
Councillor Escandell also took time to speak about the Farmland Reserve project. He described the goal as going beyond “winning back the image of an actively farmed countryside” and extending to “enhancing crop yield”. To the second point, he said locally-grown products were necessary for providing cheap options for livestock feed and “turning over fine-dining calibre products that we can be proud of”.

On agriculture, Escandell highlighted the importance of a recent announcement from the Govern Balear's chair Mateu Ginard that plans for the local irrigation pond have been set for next summer.

In terms of fishing, the councillor called “stepping up monitoring operations along our coasts” his personal crusade.

Escandell stated his own pledge: “To make our beaches, coastline and island safe.” To do so, Escandell referred to the Council's 37 person-strong team which works with other forces behind the exclusive task of ensuring order and safety.

In terms of firefighting, Escandell reported on the addition of one professional fireman to the island's brigade, which is made up of four professionals and two volunteers. He also hailed “the speed and professionalism of our firefighters' response to a string of vehicle arson incidents this winter”. The councillor said those fires are still under investigation.

Council affirms it has submitted accounts for third-party audits over last five years

The Formentera Council's tax office reported today that in the last five years the administration has provided its general accounts to the regional court of audits – la Sindicatura de Comptes – and, it asserts, has done so since taking office. «The story published in different media sources today is false», declared department head Bartomeu Escandell, who attributes the erroneous information to «a potential point of confusion, stemming from the fact that in recent years the Council has submitted its accounts after the court's established deadline of 15 October». «Never have we neglected to submit our accounts entirely», he said, and assured «the accusation has no basis in fact».

Partnership with court of audits

In the words of Councillor Escandell, «the Council has an extremely good relationship with the court of audits». He referred to a partnership in place since December whereby the CiF submits its financial information for auditing by the Sindicatura. The accord grants the Sindicatura access to the CiF's accounting system and, as Escandell explained, they have the ability to audit both past fiscal years and the budgetary information of the different departments of the Council. At the time the accord was signed, he said, the Council committed to «full cooperation to facilitate any and all accounting checks». The partnership between the Sindicatura de Comptes and the Formentera Council is indefinite. 

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