Friday, May 16, 2014

Muro: The New Model Town Hall

Muro is a town which generally goes about its business without making a great deal of fuss or drawing a huge amount of attention to itself. Gone are the days when the grand old men of Muro's politics would clash and when things would rarely appear to be sweetness and light. Both of them also had their well-publicised legal problems. Miguel Ramis, the founder of Grupotel and one-time mayor, was disqualified from public office over a land matter, while Jaume Perelló, another ex-mayor, was sentenced to a year in prison because of vote-rigging. There are of course still the occasional spats, but by and large the town hall avoids being named in dishonourable dispatches and conducts itself in an unfussy and efficient manner. So efficient is it, that it is only one of two town halls in Mallorca to have no debt.

Other town halls in the area still have alarming levels of debt, despite some years of austerity. Alcúdia's and Santa Margalida's are roughly the same, edging towards four and a half million euros. Pollensa's is a bit under four million. Sa Pobla has a whacking great 10.35 million. So how is it that Muro manages to owe not a centimo? Basically, it is all down to good housekeeping. Mayor Martí Fornes has explained that running a town hall should be like running your home finances. You don't spend more than you can afford. It all sounds remarkably like Margaret Thatcher and remarkably sensible.

There was a debt, some two million euros, a few years ago, but it has been whittled down to nothing through prudence. It is not as though there aren't investments, just that they are closely controlled. The efficiency stretches to payments to suppliers. Muro takes, on average, a mere sixteen days to pay up.

Muro's financial position may all be a function of size (roughly a third the population of Alcúdia) and of a large number of mainly up-market hotels from which healthy revenues can be obtained, but however it is managing to keep the debt to zero, it can be held up as something of a model town hall for others to aspire to.

Meanwhile, the town hall is taking measures to improve security on beaches and to tackle the problem of the illegal massages which are offered on the beaches. Calvia town hall has taken a lead in respect of the latter by putting out to tender a number of massage tents on various beaches in the town. Muro is following suit, as is Santa Margalida (aka Can Picafort). It is a pragmatic response in face of a problem that is not easily solved. It might appear to be easy to solve, but as Santa Margalida's mayor, Antoni Reus, has pointed out, the local police can confiscate the oil and the towel but an hour or so later the massage girls are back again. It's a familiar story, akin to that of the "lookies". Issuing fines isn't much use, as they don't get paid.

Muro will have two massage tents this summer, while Santa Margalida will have four. Though it might be hoped that some of the trade that the illegal massage girls have until now exploited will prefer to have an authorised beach massage, will it mean the end of the illegality and the sheer nuisance factor? Somehow, you would doubt it.

On beach security, Muro will be installing safes with the sunbed and parasol units. Or rather, the concessionaires who supply the sunbeds will be installing them. Doubtless this will have meant higher tenders for the sunbed lots on the beaches. The concessions are good revenue-earners for both Muro and Santa Margalida town halls, but they have also had their share of controversy. One can but hope that the safes will not be the targets of any vandalism. Both Muro and Can Picafort have a bit of form when it comes to sunbeds being vandalised. Not, it would seem, by ne'er-do-well tourists or local lads with nothing better to do, but by rivals.

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