The planting of the parasols has started. | Gemma Andreu

What would an approaching tourism season be without some sort of row concerning the beach services in Puerto Pollensa? What would a tourism season itself be without a similar fuss?

You can't of course see the beach of Puerto Alcudia from Puerto Pollensa, but you can see the images posted by Alcudia town hall. The planting of the parasols has started. Preparations are being made for a first of May beach-services start. In Puerto Pollensa, meanwhile, the preparations are conspicuous by their absence. This contrast has not been lost on at least one group - the opposition party Junts Avançam.

There have been seasons when the beach management has gone swimmingly. This has been because agreements have been in place with the Costas Authority, Junts having a particular interest in this regard as they established a new set of specifications when they were running the town hall.

These agreements are renewed every few years. Procedures for these agreements can be and have been the source of delay in the past. So, these are one reason why there are not infrequent rows over the beach services, while last year there was an exceptional set of circumstances for which - to be fair - the administration of Mayor Cifre should have had rather more sympathy than was forthcoming.

The town hall decided to opt out of overseeing the management of the beaches, and it informed the Costas that it was doing so. Associations, businesses were free to deal directly with the Costas if they so wished with regard to authorisations.

A major factor in this town hall decision was the charge levied by the Costas for installing beach services. For Pollensa, this was around 400,000 euros. The town hall took the view that it was most unlikely to be able to recoup this outlay through its own charges to concession holders.

It could be argued, and was, that the town hall should have assumed the cost come what may. In Alcudia, it was evident that the town hall was prepared to take a hit if necessary, and it did. The revenue from the beach services came to only around a tenth of what would normally be pulled in. However, there was one big difference. Alcudia manages the services directly. It does not have concession holders for parasols and sunloungers or for other facilities. Alcudia therefore has people that the town hall employs directly. Maintaining this employment was important.

Because there is this direct management, Alcudia is in a position to move ahead with its preparations. There is no uncertainty, even if there is a possible economic consequence. Unlike Pollensa and other town halls, there aren't the issues regarding concession holders and the financial viability of their operating services.

It hasn't been easy for town halls. In Santa Margalida, efforts are being made to avoid last year's debacle of one tender process having been annulled only to be followed by a second when it became clear that charges were not feasible. The contracts for services for Can Picafort and Son Baulo are this year 50% lower than in 2020. Over in Manacor, the decision has been taken to "municipalise" the services; the town hall is basically wishing to follow the Alcudia model.

Junts Avançam have drawn attention to Pollensa's neighbour already having the beaches ready for the May 1 start of the season. Pollensa doesn't have authorisation to tender the sunloungers or the lifeguards contracts. If this is so, then there is legitimate concern, but it does nevertheless have to be placed in the context of the different forms of beach management at the two town halls.