Not spending your budget is the worse thing you can do here in Spain

Writes Bill Anderson

LAST UPDATED: 6 Dec, 2017 @ 13:06
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WHO can honestly say that they haven’t bought something they don’t need, just because they couldn’t pass up a bargain?

There are drawers in my house cluttered with useless contraptions that I will probably never use, but, hey, it was a bargain!

Growing up in modest circumstances in Scotland, I learned that thrift was a quality to be prized. Don’t spend more than you earn. Always keep something for a rainy day!

Clearly, as a level of financial security kicked in (yes, OK, I got richer), that lesson was lost on me.

Parallels can be drawn with my hometown of Mijas.

In 2016, Mijas Council had an UNDER-SPEND of around 25 million euros…Practically unheard of in southern Spain and a good thing, right? Demonstrating thrift with taxpayers money?

Actually, NO! For the regulations governing council spending in Spain state, quite clearly: “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.

TAXES: Less money to be spent on improvements

So, we lost it, folks!

Worse, the budget for 2017 was based on the actual spending in 2016, so Mijas started off the year with 25 million euros LESS to spend than the previous year.

That’s a lot less money to spend on improvements in the town… and did you get a 25 million reduction in your taxes? Don’t be daft.

Thrift may be a commendable quality in managing your household budget, but within the council setting, it is entirely incompatible with stewardship.

Now here is an old-fashioned word for you, ‘stewardship’. It means the careful management of other people’s money; the responsible overseeing of ‘something worth caring for and preserving’.

In an interesting conversation with Angel Nozal (who was the PP mayor of Mijas up to 2015), I asked him how he managed to use up the budget year on year with no under spend.

He grinned as he told me he got into trouble with the state’s tax wonks (Hacienda) every year for overspending.

“If I had 90 million in the budget, I spent 90.5 million. If I had 95 million, I did the same. That way I ensured that Mijas got its 1% increase year on year, so instead of the budget shrinking, it got bigger,” he told me.

“But isn’t that irresponsible?” I asked.

“You may call it irresponsible,” he replied, “I call it good stewardship. I call it looking after the people of Mijas and I am big enough to take the odd slap on the chin from Hacienda if Mijas benefits.”

It was Lady Randolph Churchill who once said, “We owe something to extravagance, for thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand.”

In almost 20 years of living in Mijas, I can honestly and objectively say that 2011-2015 were the golden years of progress for Mijas.

A 70 million euro debt created by the PSOE party was finally paid off, with Mijas become a place to be proud of. Why? Because “thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand”.

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