ORIHUELA’S Town Hall remains in a state of disarray as we enter 2012.Uncertainties continue to exist over the future of the major and ruling Tri-party coalition government.
On the outside looking in, is the Councillor for the Coast Bob Houliston. He finds himself, stuck in the middle of the in-fighting between the Tri-party itself and between the ruling Municipal Government and the opposition Conservative PP, led by former Mayor Monica Lorente.
After months of resistance to do so, last week he finally met with Lorente to discus the situation on the coast.
Houliston holds the balance of power in the region although he is now a ‘non assigned’ member of the Plenary which means that he is not attached to any municipal group and therefore he can not support and sign a moción de censura (vote of no-confidence) against the Mayor.
He holds seat number 25 with the Coalition and PP parties having 12 seats apiece.
In fear of a vote of no-confidence being issued by the PP, which could have seen Houliston siding with Lorente and giving the PP enough of a majority to return to power, Houliston was expelled from the CLR-CLARO pact, and now is basically fighting on his own for the rights of the Orihuela Costa.
Orihuela Mayor Monseratte Guillen was reportedly very upset about the planned Houliston-Lorente meeting, according to local newspaper Informacion.
To many on the Coast this was surprising as he was expelled from the CLR-CLARO pact because CLR accused him of doing this exact thing, which Houliston has always denied.
Guillen, asked Houliston to explain himself and apparently after a private discussion between the two, they left on good terms.
Meanwhile Guillen probably has more important things on his mind, including looking to find means and ways to stop cracks developing further that are dividing the Orihuela council between the PSOE and the CLR.
Before Christmas her just managed to avoid a strike by the Garbage Removers and he has announced that water rates are to rise in the municipality of Orihuela by 7.5 per cent in 2012, an average increase of about €30 per annum for a regular household.
In a second Informacion report it states Orihuela council has 700 employees who work a 35-hour week but are paid to work 37.5.
Not a big deal except that after 35-hours employers are into double figures and paid overtime rates, which last year was an additional cost of €800,000.
The concern is that this overtime allowance is costing the council 1.8% of its annual budget. ‘Informacion’ also alledges that some employees work even less hours, from 9.00am until 2.00pm during the summer months but are still paid their full wage.
Guillen is reportedly concerned that although he has been in power for more than five months, his government team did not pick up on this matter.
It is only being investigated now due to the questions put forward by the newspaper.
In another cost saving measure, the Orihuela tripartite government, approved a motion that the city leaves the Consortium for Economic Development Vega Baja (Convega), arguing the municipality cannot afford the €30,000 euros a year cost.
Councillor of Finance, Juan Ignacio Lopez-Bas, said that in his opinion, Convega “has done little for Orihuela” and that the council is able by itself, to push forward job plans and projects, without the need to be part of this organization.
Back on the coast, Houliston remains in disagreement with his fellow councillors over the Municipal budget for 2012. He has asked for an amount of between five and six million euros to bring up standards in the region, especially for the infrastructure, which was not managed properly, according to Houliston.
The budget for the Municipality is estimated at €59 million with the Orihuela Costa only being offered two million of this for 2012.
By Keith Nicol