News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Junta delays Málaga metro opening
City's mayor critical of regional government's decision and lack of communication after learning about postponement in press reports
By Dave Jamieson
LAST THURSDAY'S news that the opening of Málaga's new metro system has been delayed 15 months has not gone down well in the city.
The Junta de Andalucía explained that the opening of part of Line 2, planned for November 11, has been postponed until February 2013, when both Lines 1 and 2 would be complete and ready for the system's inauguration.
The reason given was economic. The Junta says it took advice from the concession operator, Metro Málaga, who had told then that partially operating Line 2 would not be viable, and that it would lose 12 million euros.
Málaga's mayor, Francisco de la Torre, said the Junta was now reaping the fruits of a bad decision. He said the project should not have been put in private hands, because a concession operator is less certain to meet deadlines and resolve difficulties, adding that it should be have been carried out by the regional administration.
He was also critical of the fact that he had learned of the Junta's decision from press reports.
The mayor said it showed that the climate of trust, loyalty and normality with which the municipality had approached the Metro project had not been matched by the Junta.
Don't ignore the signs - choose life
€5.1 million ad campaign urges abused women to seek help
By Oliver McIntyre
A 5.1 MILLION-EURO ad campaign has been launched to urge abused women to seek help and remove themselves from harm's way.
The campaign was rolled out last week by the Ministry of Health, Social Policy and Equality under the slogan: ‘Don't ignore the signs. Choose life'.
"The most severe violence is always the culmination of a pattern of violent behaviour which starts with isolation, humiliation and attacks on the woman's self-esteem," said the health minister, Leire Pajín, presenting the campaign last week.
She said the campaign stresses the need to detect abusive behaviour early on and take action before it escalates.
The series of print, radio and television ads will run until December 15 in national, regional and local media as well as online. There will also be billboard ads and video spots screened in some 100 movie theatres around the country.
Council says scoop or pay
€3,000 fines for dog owners who don't remove poop
By Oliver McIntyre
BENALMÁDENA town hall has announced a serious crackdown on dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets, with offenders facing fines of up to 3,000 euros.
"Every day the town hall receives a multitude of complaints about the large presence of dog faeces on public ways, a situation that is unsustainable in a tourism town like ours and that we will no longer tolerate," said the councillor for health, María del Carmen Florido.
She called on dog owners to always clean up their pet's poop and, where possible, to use the designated dog potty zones available in numerous parks and other areas around the town.
The councillor warned that the local police will be stepping up patrolling and issuing fines to people caught allowing their dogs to foul public areas.
Lack of desks leaves schoolchildren sitting on floor
At another school, parents keep kids home due to inadequate conditions
By Oliver McIntyre
THE LATE arrival of classroom furniture left 40 schoolchildren sitting on the floor last week in Estación del Cártma, while the parents of more than 300 students in Sierra de Yeguas kept their children out of school altogether due to lacking furniture as well as filth from recently concluded construction work.
At the La Campiña school in Estación de Cártama the two classes of preschool students aged two and three were moved into a small gymnasium where they could at least sit on a somewhat padded floor after furniture for their prefab classrooms failed to arrive on time for the launch of the school year last Monday. Parents say that a week earlier Junta de Andalucía education officials promised the temporary classrooms were all set for the students.
At the Santísima Trinidad preschool and primary school in Sierra de Yeguas, work on enlarging and upgrading the school ran right up to the Friday before the start of the school year, leaving the facilities dirty, cluttered with construction materials and unfurnished. While furnishings began to arrive on Tuesday of last week and clean-up work got underway, the parents decided to keep their kids out of school until Monday of this week.
School desks were also late arriving to several classrooms at two schools in Rincón de la Victoria, but officials were able to temporarily move the kids to other classrooms.
EU CASH COMPLAINT
Spain's controversial Property Roadshow could be financed by EU funds
By Dave Jones
VICTIMS of property abuses in Spain have voiced anger over possible EU funding of the government's notorious Property Roadshow which returns to the UK next month.
The first phase of the initiative - designed to seduce northern Europeans into buying 700,000 unsold new homes in Spain - led to protests in the UK in May.
The exact date and itinerary of the second phase - also referred to as the 'commercial stage' - has been shrouded in secrecy.
Costa del Sol News's sister paper the Costa Blanca News contacted the public works ministry press office this week and was told it would take place 'around the middle of October in London'.
However an internal government document reveals that the roadshow will be at Property Investor Show & OPP Live 2011 from October 13-15 at the ExCel centre at Royal Victoria Dock.
The second phase aims to put developers in contact with estate agents and real estate divisions of banks in Germany, the UK, Sweden, France and The Netherlands.
"It's a good opportunity to show different quality real estate products," states a government document.
"Only participants that fulfil strict legal and quality criteria are allowed to take part."
The same government document states that this 'activity' could be financed by European Union (FEDER) development funds, with the Spanish institute of foreign trade deciding on how these funds are spent.
Victims of property abuses in Spain - which include land grab, illegal homes, off-plan sales debacles, bank guarantee failures, etc - have contacted MEPs in the UK over the issue.
Spokesman for the Finca Parcs Action Group Keith Rule said: "As a victim of bank guarantee abuse and on behalf of the Bank Guarantees In Spain petitioners I feel that given the serious unresolved issues currently associated with the Spanish property sector, it would be highly inappropriate for the EU to be funding the road shows in any way.
Mijas to launch year-round burn ban in sierra
Town hall plans a series of measures to boost fire prevention and preparedness
By Oliver McIntyre
FOLLOWING last week's devastating wildfire, Mijas town hall has announced it will institute a series of changes to local regulations in order to help prevent future fires and facilitate firefighting efforts when blazes do occur.
First off, the town hall is institute a year-round burn ban in the sierra, including not only campfires, barbecues and other open flames but also smoking. This goes beyond the Junta de Andalucía's annual summertime burn ban, which runs from June to October.
Further, barbecues or fires on private property in non-urban zones will require prior permission, said Manuel Navarro, the town planning councillor.
Over the next six months the town hall will review all of its regulations related to fire prevention and preparedness to ensure that they are being strictly met and to create new ones where necessary, said officials.
Among other things, private property owners will be expected to do their part by performing maintenance and brush clearing on rural properties, including those located in zones technically classified as urban.
To facilitate firefighter response efforts, the town's nearly 150 kilometres of rural roads and dirt tracks will be signposted; during last week's blaze firefighters had difficulty finding their way around these roads.
Wealth tax will affect people worth over €700,000
The relaunched tax, approved last week, will apply to around 160,000 taxpayers
By Oliver McIntrye
AS EXPECTED, the Cabinet last week approved the relaunch of the wealth tax, which had been suspended since 2008. However, the newly retooled tax will affect way fewer people than the previous version, applying only to those with net assets in excess of 700,000 euros, excluding their primary residence up to a value of 300,000 euros.
The previous version of the tax applied to people with net assets of as little as 108,000 euros excluding their primary residents up to a value of 150,000 euros.
Under the new scheme a married couple with community property would only be affected by the tax if their primary residence was worth more than 600,000 euros and they had additional assets totalling more than 1.4 million euros. It is estimated the tax will apply to roughly 160,000 taxpayers.
The tax rate applied to the assets above the exempt amounts is 0.2 to 2.5 per cent, on a progressive sliding scale based on the total value of the non-exempt assets.
The relaunch of the wealth tax is temporary, for a two-year period, affecting the 2011 and 2012 tax years, explained the economy minister, Elena Salgado.
Officials estimate the tax will bring in around 1.1 billion euros in each of those years, with the money going to the regional governments.
Defiant Ryanair to continue breaching Spanish rules
Airline insists on photo ID for kids despite an official ruling against the policy
By Dave Jamieson
RYANAIR says it will continue to demand photo identity for all passengers, despite being ordered to pay compensation to a Spanish customer. The country's Air Safety Agency (AESA) has ordered the Irish carrier to compensate the man who had tickets for himself and his daughter but who were prevented from flying from Valencia to Palma de Mallorca in March.
Under Spanish regulations, children under 14 are the responsibility of the adult with whom they are travelling and do not need to carry photo ID. The man in this case produced his Family Book (Libro de Familia) as identification, but this did not include a photograph of the child. Ryanair therefore refused to let her board the flight.
The AESA has ruled that Ryanair's decision was "unjustified" and ordered the airline to pay 250 euros compensation to each passenger, and cover the costs which they incurred as a result of missing the flight.
Ryanair responded last week by saying it would continue its policy of not accepting the Spanish Family Book as identification for children if it does not include a photograph of them. It pointed out that its terms and conditions clearly state that photo ID is required for all passengers, including children.
Ryanair may now be set to clash with the government on the issue as EC regulations state that each member state establishes its own air travel security arrangement, and in Spain that means that minors can travel with an adult on production of the Family Book. The case was taken to the Air Safety Agency by the Union of Consumers in Valencia who said yesterday that the agency's decision was "very positive".
Meanwhile, the consumers' group Facua has denounced Ryanair for a clause in its terms and conditions which demands that pregnant women present a letter from a doctor or midwife stating they are fit to fly. Facua says Ryanair requires the letter to be in English, which is not an official language of the Spanish state, and obliges the individual to pay an additional cost to have it translated.
Facua says that passengers affected by the practice are entitled to claim financial compensation from Ryanair, as set out in the European standard for cancellations or long delays. To this can be added the additional costs caused by the company not allowing them to fly, such as food and hotel accommodation, and the amount spent to buy a seat with another airline to get the required destination, says the group.
Government reactivates wealth tax
The tax, suspended since 2008, is expected to raise €1.4 billion a year
By Oliver McIntyre
SPAIN is to relaunch its wealth tax, which was scrapped in 2008 under the current socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
The move, which is to be formally approved at tomorrow's Cabinet meeting and is aimed at bolstering public revenues and confidence in Spain's finances, comes at the request of the socialist candidate for prime minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. He expects the tax to bring in roughly 1.4 billion euros a year beginning in 2012.
The detailed structure of the tax will be revealed following the Cabinet meeting but it is understood that the government plans for it to apply to taxpayers with a net worth of more than 600,000 euros, at a tax rate of between one and two per cent.
The goal is for the measure to not impact middleclass taxpayers, as occurred to some extent under the previous version of the wealth tax, which applied to people with net assets of as little as 108,000 euros excluding their primary residence.
Because the tax was only suspended, and not actually eliminated, the government can reinstate it at the stroke of a pen rather than having to pass a new law through Parliament.
However, Sr Rubalcaba has indicated that his campaign platform for the November 20 general election will include a proposal to create a completely new wealth tax, with the revenues going to the central government rather than to the regional governments as at current. He says the revenues would be used to help create jobs for young people.
Zoos investigated after animal rights exposé
Animal Equality report revealed ‘abusive' conditions at some zoos
By Dave Jamieson and David Eade
THE international animal rights organisation Animal Equality has made public the results of an investigation into Spanish zoos. The group said last week that the study was carried out following complaints it had received about the living conditions in which some animals were kept.
Animal Equality said it had now made formal complaints to the police and as a result eight zoos are reported to be under investigation in Madrid, Barcelona, Jaén, Sevilla, Jerez and Valencia.
The group says that self-harming and violence between animals kept in the same enclosure are the "result of the stress of being confined in enclosures that are too small or unsuitable for their needs."
The group also reports bad behaviour by zoo visitors who throw a objects into the enclosures or strike glass walls, which scares the animals behind them. Some keepers have also been reported for mistreating animals, especially during attempts to make them ‘perform' for visitors.
The activists produced videos which they claim show proof of cruelty to animals in some zoos. One made with a hidden camera allegedly shows the suffering and death of a lioness at one zoo after her keeper refused to pay for a visit from a vet.
According to Animal Equality, zoos have no educational function because, they claim, "animals in zoos display the same behaviour as any animal in captivity, thus distorting children's views of them, rather than bringing them closer to understanding them."
Castellar among worst
The report named the zoo in Castellar de la Frontera as "one of the worst when it comes to the treatment of animals," along with the Madrid and Sevilla zoos.
At both Castellar and Madrid the group cited an excessive accumulation of rubbish including food and excrement.
In all Animal Equality inspected 226 zoos and wildlife parks in Spain.