News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Nerja to reintroduce local rubbish tax
The new tax will be introduced in 2013 and will bring around 540,000 euros into the council coffers
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA is to reintroduce the local tax for collecting domestic rubbish. Since 1992, this has been included in the IBI tax but the town hall has decided to revive it an effort to generate cash and help bring down municipal debt which reached 4.8 million euros at the end of 2011.
Finance councillor Antonio Villasclaras said that there was "no choice" but to reintroduce the charge. He said it which would demonstrate to the Ministry of Finance that the town was generating new sources of income to balance its public services costs. The councillor pointed out that rubbish collection and disposal costs Nerja town hall 1.6 million euros annually which is not compensated for by any direct income.
The rate to be charged in Nerja will be three euros per month per household, which, Sr Villasclaras claimed, is considerably less than is charged by other towns in the area. He alleged this varied from 12 euros a month in Torrox to as much as 16 euros monthly in Almuñécar.
Nerja's parking puzzle
Confusion reigns amongst car owners this week as conflicting stories emerged about the town's biggest outdoor car park
By Dave Jamieson
SEASON ticket holders using the central Los Huertos parking area were initially told that monthly passes had been suspended over the summer, but were later advised that this was untrue. The open air car park near the Balcón de Europa holds about 1,000 vehicles, and, until a few years ago, parking was free of charge.
The area was widely used by motorists suffering from Nerja's chronic lack of on-street town centre parking, and, while there are plans for 400 houses and possibly a new town hall on the site one day, councillors decided to allow it to be taken over by a private company as a pay car park in the meantime.
Residents living nearby could park for a little over 20 euros a month, while those from further away paid around ten euros more.
However, press reports last week indicated that this policy had been suspended from April 1 to October 31, leaving those who had bought an annual ticket being the only season ticket holders able to park without extra payment. Casual users pay up to 1.80 euros an hour to leave their vehicles at Los Huertos.
When the reports emerged last week, the councillor responsible, Inocencia Quintero, said she was not in absolute accord with the policy adopted for the peak summer months by the car park operator and that she would ask them to reconsider.
Equity fraud demo
Expats in alleged foreign bank malpractice protest after court throws case out
By Dave Jamieson
AROUND 30 foreign residents have made a formal complaint about the alleged fraudulent practices of a number of foreign banking entities.
They gathered on Monday morning at the tax offices in Málaga to protest about an equity release scheme which is understood to have been operated illegally.
The banks in question are outside Spain and offered home-owners equity release on part or all of the value of their property. It was explained that by registering a mortgage on their property, they could legally eliminate inheritance taxes and that, by investing the loan obtained from the mortgage, they would obtain an additional income to their pensions. The investment, in financial havens such as Luxembourg, was described as risk-free and came with an attractive high rate of return.
However, after signing, some victims began receiving letters from the banks advising that they had not agreed to an equity release scheme, but a loan and that they had defaulted on their payments. The banks, which are reported to have lost more than half of the capital investments, told them that they should sell their properties to pay off the outstanding debt.
"According to the recording [of the call], the call centre confirmed with him that the patient was not breathing, and also that the situation that had occurred was expected"
Green light for train line extension to Marbella
The Ministry of Public Works has allocated 682,000 euros for a viability study
By David Eade
THE recent Spanish budget introduced by the new Partido Popular government may have been the most austere in recent history but it has brought positive news for those wanting to see the coast's train service extended to Marbella.
The budget saw a 50 per cent cut in the previous government's spending but the train network is one area where the green light has been given to investment.
The Ministry of Public Works has allocated 682,000 euros to the viability study of extending the line along the coast from Fuengirola to Marbella.
Local Spanish newspapers last week publically queried the need to carry out a new viability study, saying one had already been carried out. The Junta promptly followed this with a promise to hand over documentation for the project, accumulated in the last decade, to the Ministry.
British woman on trial for killing husband
Michelle C. told the court she had been subjected to abuse by her spouse for 18 years
By Oliver McIntyre
A BRITISH woman on trial for allegedly killing her husband in Benalmádena has claimed that she stabbed him accidentally while trying to escape from the home while he was being aggressive and threatening. Michelle C. told the court he had subjected her to abuse for 18 years, beginning just a week after they were married.
The woman testified that on July 24, 2010, she and her husband rowed in their apartment, after which the man sat in the bedroom drinking but came out periodically acting aggressively, and he "wanted sex".
She said she was scared and grabbed a kitchen knife, which she brandished in an attempt to make a run for the front door, but she and her husband "collided" and the knife cut him in the collarbone, causing severe bleeding.
The woman told the court she intended only to escape, not to kill her husband.
Ryanair loses Alicante airport case
Court says disembarking on tarmac rather than air-bridge poses greater riskBy Dave Jamieson
RYANAIR'S ongoing dispute with Alicante airport over the use of air-bridges moved on last week when the airline lost its case in a mercantile court in Elche. The ruling said that it was evident that disembarking passengers on foot, rather than using air-bridges, exposes them to greater risk and danger.
The decision of airports authority AENA to force Ryanair to use the air-bridges, at an estimated cost to the airline of two million euros a year, was described by Ryanair as "unilateral and unjustified". The Irish carrier said it was disappointed that "common sense has not prevailed," and that the issue remained a serious threat to its business model.
However, AENA pointed out that Ryanair's punctuality throughout 2011 had actually improved with the use of air-bridges.
Ryanair has been ordered to pay costs, but was given 20 days in which to appeal to the provincial court in Alicante.
Ryanair had claimed that allowing passengers to embark and disembark on foot reduced the turnaround time of its aircraft at Alicante from 35 to 25 minutes. However, the judge hearing the case pointed to testimony that the airline always asked AENA for a 35-minute slot at the airport, and the head of the operations division had said that aircraft were not permitted to leave until those 35 minutes were up.
The airline has cancelled flights from Alicante this summer which they claim will result in 1.5 million fewer holidaymakers on the Costa Blanca. Ryanair has estimated that passenger numbers in the first quarter are 200,000 down on last year.
EU court upholds €152m TelefÓnica fineThe company used its dominant market position to jack up ADSN prices, says ruling
By Oliver McIntyre
THE EU'S second highest court has upheld a 152 million-euro fine issued by the European Commission to Telefónica for abusing its dominant market position to impose unfair prices on the Spanish broadband market.
Telefónica says it will file a further appeal against the fine, the largest ever imposed on a telecommunications company by the EU's antitrust regulator.
In its ruling the General Court found that "Telefónica abused its dominant position in the Spanish wholesale market for regional and national access" between 2001 and 2006. The effect was to squeeze the margins of competitors who had to purchase space on Telefónica's broadband network in order provide ADSL service to their clients, making it impossible for them to compete in the market without making losses.
During the period in question Telefónica had an 84 per cent share of the ADSL market.
When the EC levied the fine in 2007, the then-competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said, "I will not allow dominant companies to use their market power to close down markets that the European Union has opened."
She said the ultimate victim was the Spanish consumer, who ended up paying higher prices for ADSL than people in other EU countries.
Spanish cities join in Earth Hour switch-off
The international event saw lights go out at monuments across the country
By David Eade
BUILDINGS and monuments across Spain went dark on Saturday night as the country participated in the international Earth Hour event.
The event, known in Spain as the Hora del Planeta, is a worldwide demonstration to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change.
Ahead of the big switch-off, at round 8.30pm more than 500 people formed a human mosaic in the shape of a giant panda in Madrid's Plaza de Oriente. Earlier in the evening the WWF España volunteers had organised music and other entertainment.
The annual event is promoted globally by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Mar Asunción, the climate change spokesperson for WWF in Spain, said the objective was an "ecological power cut" to "demonstrate the importance of putting a break on climate change". She added that each and every person can do their bit to effect change.
Bmibaby starts flights to Gibraltar
By David Eade
LAST YEAR was a record year for passenger numbers flying in and out of Gibraltar and the figures this year could leap still further with the arrival of a new airline.
On Saturday UK carrier bmibaby launched its Gibraltar service from East Midlands Airport. The scheduled flight to and from Gibraltar will operate three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The Hon Neil Costa, Minister for Tourism, Public Transport and the Port was on hand to welcome passengers arriving from East Midlands into Gibraltar.
He said: "The start of bmibaby services is great news for both visitors and business travellers to Gibraltar. We are enjoying unprecedented access from the UK to Gibraltar and are able to increasingly appeal to a widened catchment area of visitors. With an exciting calendar of local events evolving through the summer this is an exciting time to entice visitors to Gibraltar. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the airline."