News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Ex-mayor questioned again in corruption probe
Alcaucín case takes new turn with suspicion of missing cash
By Dave Jamieson
Alleged corruption in the Axarquía town of Alcaucín returned to the headlines last week with news that investigators may have discovered a substantial sum of cash missing from the accounts. In February, the town's mayor and 12 others were arrested on suspicion of town-planning corruption in the municipality.
José Manuel Martín Alba immediately resigned as mayor of Alcaucín when he was detained and taken to prison, where he remained until June when he was released on bail of 120,000 euros. Last week, it was revealed that the former mayor, his two daughters and five other people were interviewed again by Guardia Civil officers at the beginning of August.
The new line of investigation is reported to have stemmed from paperwork seized by officers during the initial raid on Alcaucín town hall in February. It centres on the 2004 sale and purchase of a plot of land in Calle Carrión where 36 apartments, with garages and swimming pool, in two blocks have now been built. The land was classified as non-developable, and therefore unavailable for building.
In addition, the investigators are trying to reconcile the price shown on the deeds which is just over 100,000 euros, and the amount which the buyers allegedly paid, which is reported to be over 300,000 euros. The puzzle they have to solve is what happened to the missing 200,000 euros.
Spain prepares tax hike for the rich
Opposition PP argues for budget ‘austerity' instead
By David Eade
The minister for public works, José Blanco, one of the senior ministers in PM Zapatero's cabinet, has signalled that a U-turn is in the offing and tax increases for the rich could be on the way. This has led to protests from the centre-right Partido Popular. Leader Mariano Rajoy has instead called for "austerity" and wants Spain's budget deficit reduced to three per cent of GDP - the widely ignored level set by the EU.
Last week in a radio interview Sr Blanco stated: "If we need to raise certain tax rates in order to guarantee social policies or public investment, then we'll have to do it.
"I believe in helping those who most need it and if in order to help the needy those who can most afford it have to tighten their belts in times of hardship, then we must say so clearly to the public."
Spain has moved from a 2007 surplus of 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product to a projected deficit of 10 per cent or more this year. Spending has risen because Premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has promoted nationwide public works to stop unemployment rising even higher than the current level of 18 per cent.
So Spain could now follow in Britain's footsteps where top rate personal income tax will rise from 40 to 50 per cent next year. In June Spanish ministers, who had previously presided over the abolition of Spain's wealth tax, were denying the need for drastic tax rises. However, fuel and tobacco taxes have risen and business leaders fear increases in other taxes, including value-added tax and possibly income tax.
Black August on Costa roads
Fourteen dead in traffic accidents in Málaga province
By Oliver McIntyre
In what has become a black August on Costa roads, two young men were killed and a woman injured when their car smashed into a palm tree in the centre divider of the coast road in Benalmádena last week, and the following day an elderly couple was killed in a head-on collision with a lorry on the A367 near Cañete la Real. Days later, early on Sunday morning, a 29-year-old man was killed in a motorcycle accident in Vélez-Málaga, and the following day a road worker was hit by a truck and killed while working on the A45 near Casabermeja.
In the Benalmádena accident, it is understood the driver lost control of the Peugeot 306 shortly after rounding the windmills roundabout on Avenida Antonio Machado and the car careered into the median strip, jumping the kerb and ploughing into the tree so violently that it knocked it over.
The two young men, aged 18 and 20, were killed instantly but the 19-year-old woman, riding in the back seat, survived the impact. She was taken to Málaga's Hospital Clínico, where her condition was reported as serious but stable.
The accident occurred at around 4.30am on Wednesday as the car was headed eastbound towards Torremolinos and Málaga on Avenida Antonio Machado. The exact cause is unknown but police say excessive speed may have been a factor.
In the Cañete de Real accident, the 74-year-old driver and his wife, 70, were apparently attempting to pass another vehicle when they ran head-on into a livestock lorry. It is understood the Spanish couple was living in Germany but passed long holiday periods in Serrato near Ronda.
The Vélez-Málaga accident occurred early Sunday morning when the victim's motorcycle was involved in a collision with a four-wheel-drive vehicle in Calle Blas Infante.
Farm workers disrupt airport and train station
Protest, over unemployment subsidy, also disrupted city traffic
By Dave Jamieson
Agricultural labourers staged major protests at a three sites in Málaga last Thursday in protest at the conditions surrounding a new grant for the long-term unemployed announced by the government. The city's railway station, airport and city centre streets all suffered disruption during the unauthorised demonstrations organised by the Andalucía Syndicate of Farm Workers (SAT).
Around 900 people are thought to have been involved in the protests which began at Málaga airport around midday. According to a SAT representative Diego Cañamero, the intention was to disrupt flights, although airports operator Aena later said none was affected. However, tailbacks on airport approach roads quickly built up.
The action then moved to the city's María Zambrano rail terminal where local and National Police officers attempted to prevent protestors from entering. However, around 50 people managed to gain access to the AVE platforms, but Renfe confirmed that no trains had been delayed.
At around 4pm, demonstrators moved to the Marqués de Larios roundabout at the end of the Alameda where traffic was disrupted for about two hours.
Consumer price drop slows but GDP hits new record low
Zapatero says planned tax rises will be ‘limited in time and scope'
By Dave Jamieson
The fall in consumer prices in Spain slowed in August, according to encouraging data last Friday from the National Statistics Institute (INE). However, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter fell by more than was expected.
Consumer prices have been falling since March, which was the first month a year-on-year drop had been recorded since records began in 1961. Consecutive months showed the rate was increasing down to the maximum of 1.4 per cent in July, leading to fears of a period of deflation which would be harmful to the economy. However, the INE's provisional figure for August showed that prices in the shops fell by just 0.8 per cent, data which is due to be confirmed next week.
The GDP data for the second quarter of 2009, also announced last week, showed a year-on-year contraction of 1.1 per cent, and a record 4.2 per cent drop over the year. Both figures are worse than those predicted and the annual drop is the sharpest since records began in 1970. The INE also revised last year's figure downwards from 1.2 to 0.9 per cent. Only two years ago, GDP expanded by 3.6 per cent.
The bad news continued last week with more INE figures showing the average mortgage loan granted in June 2009 was 117,000 euros, down 17 per cent on the same month in 2008. The situation in Madrid and Barcelona was reported to be even worse, with drops of 19.3 and 24 per cent respectively. There were 70,000 fewer mortgages granted in June compared with the previous year. However, the situation has improved since May, when 22.6 per cent fewer mortgages were granted than in the same month in 2008.
Capital gains increase
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Zapatero says expected tax rises will be "limited in time and scope." His comments on Friday followed those of the Economy Minister Elena Salgado on Wednesday when she said that, "all, absolutely all" taxes were set to rise. Sr Zapatero insisted that income and business taxes will not be raised and that the increases will focus on capital gains taxes.