How many municipalities does Majorca have? Go to the top of the class if you know the number to be 53. Go to the bottom of the class if you reckon 54. Or should you go to the bottom? In fact, it may well be that you have special knowledge of Majorca’s local government, because of the peculiarity that lurks inside Bunyola’s municipal borders.
There’s Bunyola, the municipality, and there is also Palmanyola, which is part of Bunyola but, there again, isn’t. This is because Palmanyola is something known as a “minor local entity”, which doesn’t sound particularly complimentary but certainly does have its advantages, such as in getting around lockdown-going-out rules.
There are occasions when, for statistical purposes, one sees lists of municipalities and discovers that Palmanyola is one of them. Such lists can clearly generate confusion, given that 53 is the number and not 54. But if one had not previously come across the riddle of when is a municipality not a municipality, it has now come to the fore. Since Saturday, the citizens of Bunyola (and Palmanyola), thanks to Palmanyola, are not subject to the regulations about going out that apply to municipalities with 5,000 or more inhabitants.
Bunyola’s population, according to the latest figures, is 6,809. As such, therefore, the good people of Bunyola should now be paying close attention to the time so as to stick to the hours when the different age groups are allowed out to exercise. But because 2,110 of these 6,809 live in Palmanyola, the hours don’t apply. All 6,809 can therefore exercise whenever they like from six in the morning until eleven at night.
The minor local entity took the matter up with the national government delegation, arguing that there are two administrations - the town hall and the minor local entity. The delegation obviously agreed, as the 6,809 now have an all-day pass, and it was a decision that caused something of a rumpus. It appeared as if there was some flexibility with the rules, a polite way of suggesting that there was some bending of the rules. Regardless of whether Palmanyola does occasionally get listed as a municipality, the fact remains that it isn’t.
The minor local entity’s administration found it necessary to go on social media and explain that “we have never doubted that we belong to Bunyola”. This doubt was an interpretation being made by critics not just of the delegation’s decision but of there having been consultation with the delegation in the first place. While not doubting that Palmanyola is indeed part of Bunyola, the minor local entity’s administration added: “We are very clear that our primary duty is to the residents of Palmanyola, and this is why the consultation was made.”
Palmanyola is unique in that it is Majorca’s only minor local entity, a form of administration that was created in 1924 under Spain’s municipal statute and which is granted devolved powers to, for example, organise its own public works. At the end of September 1985, Palmanyola became such an administration, the result of an initiative led by three residents to give Palmanyola a form of autonomy and its own voice. The aim was to create a ‘pueblo’, rather than Palmanyola being considered as a dormitory town (so to speak, given its size) and so as a commuter-belt adjunct to Palma and the rest of Bunyola.
In 2012, the Partido Popular government in Madrid was contemplating local authority reform that was linked to austerity measures and was intended to reduce the cost of local government. Spain’s minor local entities were firmly in the government’s sights - all 3,725 of them. The law for rationalisation and sustainability of local administration was passed, the then minister for public administration, Cristóbal Montoro, describing these entities as “obsolete and opaque”; some of them weren’t publishing accounts.
There was support for this reform as it applied to Palmanyola from within Bunyola. The relationship between the mayor of Bunyola and the ‘mayor’ of Palmanyola - both of them members of the PP - was not good. Bunyola would have been content for the rationalisation to have occurred in order to “avoid duplications and added costs”. As things turned out, the reform didn’t happen, so Palmanyola’s now 35-year-old status remains intact.
Recently, there has again been talk of Porto Cristo becoming a minor local entity within Manacor. This had first cropped up at the end of the last century, the PP administration at Manacor town hall having been accused of discriminating against Porto Cristo and failing with its management. But had Porto Cristo by now been a minor local entity, there wouldn’t have been any advantage with the going-out regulations. It alone has a population of 8,366.
So, Palmanyola’s citizens (and Bunyola’s) are right now enjoying an unexpected benefit. A question is, though - when they go out to exercise, must they stay within each other’s borders?