Over 300 people descended on the Catral Town Hall on Wednesday to protest against the administration’s plans to impose a 1% tax on illegal home owners to pay for the inclusion of their homes on the PGOU, or general plan of the town. The residents, the majority of whom are pensioners, say that they do not have the money to pay the tax and don’t see why they should pay to put their homes onto the plan as they bought them in good faith. One resident at the protest said “The Town Hall realises that it is in a difficult position and we know that they are trying their best to sort the situation, but the majority of us cannot afford to pay this tax. We are already suffering due to the weak pound and our pensions are down at least a third compared to this time two years ago.”
As the protesters made their way peacefully from the Casa de Cultura to the Town Hall, their aim was to put pressure on the Town Hall to cancel the 1% tax agree to negotiate a better solution with the newly formed action group,
Protest organiser Jose Antonio Rivero Santana, President of Crime Watch Spain, told RTN: “We have to resolve this situation as soon as possible. We have already sent documentation to the Ombudsman at the European Parliament and Margaret Auken MEP is aware of the problem and is supporting us, as is Enrique Clement and Chuck Svoboda from AUN who are also supporting and helping us. We have every right to fight against this tax.” Once at the Town Hall, the protesters were greeted by the Catral Mayor, Aurelio Albero Garcia and the Councillor for Urbanism, Antonio Bellido. They suggested that the organisers of the protest and members of the press to accompany them to the meeting room inside the Town Hall to discuss the situation.
The Mayor started by saying that he didn’t understand why the protest was happening and told the gathering that the Town Hall is doing everything that it can to resolve the problem of illegal homes in the municipality.
Jose Antonio Rivero Santana asked the Mayor to confirm whether or not residents who did not pay the proposed 1% tax would have their electricity and water cut off, as was implied two weeks ago by solicitor Carlos Hernandez. The Mayor stated categorically that this would not be the case but implored residents to pay the tax as it would be unlawful not to. He said: “We are working for every resident in the town, especially those with illegal properties. The PGOU is in process and we need to get every house on that plan in order to legalise them, but this comes at a cost. All that we ask is for the 1% tax to be paid and for any fines on additions made to the property and not on the escritura, to be paid.”
Residents argued that they are the victims of a corrupt Town Hall and therefore shouldn’t be made to pay more. Jose told the Mayor: “Most of these people cannot afford this 1% especially in this economic climate.” The Mayor said: “We have tried to find an amicable solution to this problem and this 1% tax was the fairest solution. This tax has to go towards to the administration and technical reports necessary to have the homes included on the PGOU.” He added: “I don’t want my words to be manipulated and be misrepresented, but it is the Town Hall’s priority to sort this huge problem out. It is not productive to protest as we feel that we helped as much as we can. It is transparent; to make these homes legal, they must be put on the PGOU. In order to do this, people must pay the 1% tax.”
Round Town News specifically asked the Mayor to clarify that once the residents had paid the 1% and any applicable fines, that there would be no further charges and he said yes. There is still an outstanding issue of the how much people will have to pay for the necessary septic tanks for their properties, which must comply to EU laws and regulations. This issue will be included in a further meeting with the Mayor next week.
In the meantime, another residents meeting has been arranged on Monday 14th December at the Meroil service station on the outskirts of Catral. All affected residents are invited to attend the meeting which takes place at 15.00.
Source:Round town News
Written by Heidi Wardman