A political session in Alcudia. | A. BASSA


If you ever look at the agenda for a council meeting, you will see that the order of the day is often littered with items regarding approvals of credit. These are usually for payments which, while the spending may come within the scope of a town hall's annual budget and reserves, are in some way exceptional. They crop up all the time because they were unforeseen or are adjustments to what had previously been agreed but have ended up being for greater amounts. They are therefore totally normal.

There is a term which applies to many of these payments. In Spanish it is reconocimiento extrajudicial de crédito (REC) - extrajudicial recognition of credit. The judicial doesn't refer to courts but to the legal system that governs local authority spending. The procedure involves charges to the budget which are deemed not to observe the legal system precisely because the credits have not been budgeted for.

For analysts of public finance there is a generally held view that while there is regulation of such credits, there are also shortcomings. The greatest concern relates to the possibility of "unjust enrichment" because of a lack of supervision and scrutiny. It's for this reason that credit amendments are taken to council meetings. Normally they are approved, but it becomes a matter of record if councillors raise challenges. Scrutiny is shown to have been given.

In Alcudia, the ruling administration of the Partido Popular, Vox and Unió per Alcudia raised a motion at the last council meeting for approval of these sorts of credit to be delegated from full council sessions to meetings of the administration's board. Opposition parties were dead against this and accused the administration of seeking to conceal financial information from the full council and therefore of moving towards an "undercover" method of approving payments.

PSOE, the main opposition group, wanted the motion to be withdrawn from the agenda and to wait for reports from the town hall's secretariat. On behalf of PSOE, councillor Joan Gaspar Vallori said that the secretary had told the administration it would be an "illegal measure". Other opposition parties insisted that taking powers of supervision away from council meetings would make control "difficult".

The mayor, Fina Linares, pointed out that the delegation of powers would only be for payments of under 40,000 euros. The reason for doing so, she added, was that it would speed up payments to smaller companies so that they won't have to wait months to be paid. It is within the law to do this, she maintained, and fifty per cent of town halls in Mallorca have such a system.

But as noted, there is the view that there are shortcomings with regulation of these credits, while there is perhaps one thing above all that is a concern when it comes to the management of town halls - and that is transparency. In this respect, taking away some council meeting powers, which is what this effectively amounts to, may not be the best look, even if it is fairly common practice.

This said, anything that involves a speeding-up of payments by town halls is welcome. At Alcudia, I am told, the current administration was presented by a whole load of invoices that were unpaid by the previous administration. These aren't necessarily anything to do with REC, but whatever their category, so I'm led to believe, payments go through rapidly if they are for regular suppliers. It's other suppliers, who may only have a one-off invoice, who suffer because of late payment as their invoices basically go to the bottom of the processing pile.

Forget Christmas, Sant Antoni's on its way

In Mallorca, it's impossible to suffer the January blues because so much of the month is dedicated to some form of festive activity or other. The days remaining of Christmas in January take us up to the sixth, then in no time the preparations are being made for what are arguably the most important fiestas of the whole year - Sant Antoni.

Mainly January 16 and 17, but with activities prior to these dates, the epicentre of Sant Antoni for the whole island is Sa Pobla. Some preparations have already started, and in Sa Pobla these include the competition for the poster. There are twenty-two designs in the running, and residents can vote for their favourite.

The voting, as the town hall has pointed out, is at the library. But posting all 22 contenders on Facebook has produced a whole load of votes which won't count.

There are also the Sant Sebastià fiestas, far less observed than Sant Antoni, but then comes Carnival. As it's so early in 2024 (weekend of February 10 and 11), Sa Pobla and other town halls will have to get a move on and hold Carnival poster design contests as well.

Playa de Muro parking fines - even the mayor's had one

A few weeks ago, it was reported that Muro town hall was processing a whopping 29,000 fines for parking in Ses Casetes des Capellans. These were from May to October and were due to the fact that Ses Casetes had become an Acire zone - restricted access to residents only.

There were concerns that all this fining activity was potentially another blow to the restaurants in Ses Casetes, which have been suffering on account of the Costas Authority's refusal to extend concessions for their terraces (which were admittedly ignored last summer). The town hall became aware that there was some confusion regarding the parking system. A prominent figure at the town hall, namely the mayor, Miquel Porquer, was himself fined not once but twice.

There is now talk of the Acire only operating in the very high summer months of July and August. But meanwhile, there are all those fines to wade through, some of which - like the mayor's - are multiple. In the case of one German tourist, used in the past to merely driving into Ses Casetes and parking, he accumulated five fines. He says that he never saw a sign about parking being reserved for residents. His car was hired, and the car-hire firm has generously agreed to go halves on the five fines of eighty euros each.