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‘Protect Formentera, for you and for everyone!’ dresses for winter

cartell 2020 protegeix formenteraThe president’s office of the Consell de Formentera reports that a wintertime makeover has been given to the summer push reminding islanders and tourists of safety measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 and protect each other.

Currently appearing across social media, the updated “Protect Formentera, for you and for everyone!” finds the campaign’s protagonists dawning winter attire as they act out central tenets of coronavirus prevention like mandatory masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

President Ferrer pointed to the long weekend 3-6 December and Christmas holidays on the horizon as she pleaded with the island’s residents and visitors to keep their guards up, insisting “if we forget the rules of Covid-19 safety, today’s very reassuring outlook could get bad quickly and put the whole island at risk”.

Free PCR testing
With the long weekend set to start tomorrow and celebrations planned in Sant Francesc, Ferrer asked arriving visitors to “make the visit safe” by submitting to a free PCR screening. Interested parties should call the Govern balear’s Infocovid service at 900.100.971 to schedule an appointment.

2 December 2020
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

Formentera green-lights 2021 budget characterised by Covid-19 crisis and help for island’s most vulnerable

foto 2020 ple novIn today’s full-house November assembly of the Consell de Formentera, “yes” votes from the Gent per Formentera-PSOE cabinet meant the administration’s proposed 2021 budget —nearly €30.7 million, or a more than1.9% spending increase— went ahead despite abstention from Sa Unió opposition councillors.

Economy and finance councillor Bartomeu Escandell said the ongoing pandemic permeated the budget, stressing key components like “assistance for the most vulnerable, agriculture, families renting their home and other islanders affected by the Covid-19 crisis”.

Casting future prospects as “still uncertain” and the summer 2020 season as “short and atypical, but better than expected in May”, Escandell said the spending plan was “designed to help islanders and Formentera businesses weather a winter that’s expected to be tough” and described the guiding vision as “no islander be left behind”.

Helping people
€130,000 in food vouchers
€150,000 in renters’ assistance
€100,000 for students
Escoleta, music and dance school and municipal sports service fees waived
Urban estate tax rate cut

Economic stimulus
€150,000 for freelancers and business owners
Public thoroughfare occupancy tax rebates
Fees for reforms and upgrades waived
Slaughterhouse fees waived

Escandell explained that the plan redirects €736,500 toward keeping businesses operational and helping families and Formentera’s agricultural sector, with total spending in those areas approaching €2,070,000—a 55% increase on 2020 figures.

He additionally highlighted inflated investment capital and current transfers, flattening current income from the region and a reduction in the urban estate tax (IBI), with borrowing kept at zero.

Investment criteria
Sustainability is still the priority, said Escandell, pointing to the anticipated recovery of natural spaces like S’Estany des Peix as well as increasingly sustainable mobility and waste management. Escandell told assembly members to watch for phase two of reforms on avinguda Miramar in the centre of Es Pujols along with improvements on the access road to Sant Ferran school and the senior living centre plus a fitness circuit and skate and sports park in Sant Francesc.

Other headline projects in 2021 involve preserving heritage sites, like through the rehabilitation of Casa de Can Ramon and the creation of a cultural centre at the current site of Sant Ferran school, and by promoting islanders’ active participation in local affairs, such as with the Consell d’Entitats’ participatory spending initiative.

And finally, the elderly, adolescents and children constitute priorities in the budget too, with plans in place to open the island’s first old people’s home and the Sant Ferran escoleta (nursery), not to mention the scheduled construction of the Sant Ferran skate and sport park.

Unity of the Catalan language
The cabinet overcame opposition resistance to highlight certain government agencies and offices’ failure to recognise Catalan as a single, cohesive language, adopting a motion to “recognise and proclaim the integrality of the Catalan language, a fact that need not debase other existing denominations”. Councillor Raquel Guasch, chief of the language policy department, rejected attempts in places where Catalan enjoys official language status to “create barriers to normalised Catalan use and undermine protections of linguistic unitarity”. The measure also presses the central government to grant “public and official acknowledgment of the unity of the Catalan language”. Guasch bemoaned the lack of administrative and policy coordination that speakers of the language still endure, casting the failure as “a violation of rights”. “It’s time for the five regions where Catalan is spoken and the central government to come up with real policies recognising Catalan’s cohesiveness and the rights of those who speak it”, she insisted.

Adopting an appeal that was brought (and subsequently rejected) by the opposition and ultimately brokered by the cabinet, plenary members urged the Spanish Ministry of Energy Transition to monitor SARS-Cov2 in wastewater on the island. Environment councillor Antonio J. Sanz defended the proposal, saying monitoring could be carried out in “a remote area not well connected to the sewage network”. “Connections are typically limited between remote homes and between remote homes and urban homes. The studies executed so far have focused on water treatment plants in urban areas and areas that are well connected to the sewage grid”, asserted the councillor.

PCR screening
With one measure that was presented by the opposition and brokered by the cabinet, assembly members agreed to urge the Spanish Ministry of Health to require proof of PCR screening and negative Covid-19 status before travellers from mainland Spain can come to the Balearics. Consell premiere and tourism councillor Alejandra Ferrer highlighted an additional caveat that would allow “similar faster or cheaper tests, particularly given the approach of Christmas and family get-togethers, so we can ensure visits happen safely — for travellers, hosts and the island at large”.

Cross-party backing was secured by Sa Unió party members’ proposal to revise and renovate road signs and change the names of the arterials constituting the local roads network.

Report from Rafael Ramírez
Councillor of social welfare, management and transparency Rafael Ramírez offered assembly members a review of his departments’ operations. He began his remarks by highlighting the challenge that the pandemic is posing for local government and asked for understanding if “decisions made in recent months failed to rise to the situation”.

“The pandemic laid bare the importance of quality public systems to safeguard the rights of islanders”, said Ramírez, describing the work of Formentera Social Welfare Department personnel as “a point of pride”: “Staff have reorganised services and updated the channels that make them accessible to islanders, adjusting to the evolving reality imposed by pandemic”.

After an overview of services assured by FSWD, the councillor detailed some of the advances made in the last twelve months by the Formentera Transparency Department, such as up-to-date data on FTD’s online portal and the Consell de Formentera website and coordination with the human resources department around collective bargaining talks.

Official proclamation
Plenary members struck unity behind a statement on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Equality councillor Vanessa Parellada plead the case for “a reiteration of our commitment to tackling violence against women and their children” and “vigilance against that which would put safeguards to our liberties at risk”.

Plenary members encouraged caution given policies of isolation and lockdown work to exacerbate the risk of domestic, sexual and gender violence, insisting the very fact made additional safeguards necessary. They described local government’s role in making the economy and society more equitable, inclusive and sustainable as “decisive and transformative”.

In the proclamation, councillors called for gender equality and women’s rights to stay central on the political agenda, demanding wide-reaching consensus-based action so policies aimed at stamping out gender violence can enjoy continued traction.

At 12 noon today, 25 November, plenary attendees observed a minute of silence for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

25 November 2020
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

€150K in renters’ assistance for crisis-hit islanders

foto 2020 ajudes covidThe Formentera Housing Department reports that local families who have seen their finances affected by the Covid-19 crisis can submit applications for renters’ assistance starting today. Posted to the Balearic Job Seekers’ Service website earlier today, the offer outlines €150,000 in assistance covering between 70% and 100% of islanders’ rent payments. Benefits will not last more than three months, and are reserved for islanders whose monthly income was less than €1,200 between April and October.

An applicant’s particular social and professional circumstances will determine the amount of assistance they receive, but the total is capped at €3,240. Money may be used either to pay rent or to make payments on loans for rent between 1 April and 31 October 2020.

Less than €1,200 in income
Deputy premiere and housing councillor Ana Juan highlighted work to ensure that current and previous Covid-19-related aid was received “quickly and by as many islanders as possible”. “We’re here to make sure people get all the help they need”, said Juan, “and the current sum of €150K is key to giving renters a fighting chance”. Juan made assurances that while the current aide package was the Consell’s first to focus specifically on housing, it wouldn’t be the last, and asserted additional funding would depend on how many applications were received.

25 days to apply
To make accessing the money easier and offer answers to related questions, the Consell has created an information hotline that can be reached by dialling 971 32 10 87. Islanders have 25 calendar days from today’s date to submit applications either at the Citizen Information Office (OAC) or Virtual Citizen Information Office (OVAC). Complete details are available on the Consell de Formentera website, and applications will be processed in the order they are received.

To be eligible, applicants must meet one of the following conditions: have been unemployed between 1 April and 31 October or temporarily furloughed; have been forced to work fewer hours as a result of medical treatment received; seen their freelance professional activity interrupted or invoices decrease by 75% or more; be seasonal workers but not in possession of a permanent seasonal contract and be unemployed right now; have been victims of gender violence or in a situation of vulnerability.

Rental agreement and minimum 18 months on Formentera
Eligible islanders will be over 18; have lived on the island at least 18 months; be signatories of a rental agreement and currently domiciled at the address in question plus be able to demonstrate monthly rent and basic costs and utilities (electricity, gas, diesel for heating, water, telecom and community fees) amounting to at least 35% of the family unit’s total income.

24 November 2020
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

In bid to temper Covid-19 crisis, Consell’s 2021 budget puts focus on families and economic stimulus

foto 2020 presentacio pressupostosEarlier today Consell de Formentera premiere Alejandra Ferrer, deputy premiere Ana Juan and economy and finance councillor Bartomeu Escandell gathered at the seat of local government to make public the details of the administration’s 2021 budget. Total spending tops €30.6 million — a 1.9% increase compared to last year, when it accounted for €30M.

President Ferrer asserted that 2021 would mark a continuation of efforts begun last year to ensure no islander would be left behind. “We’ll continue working to give families uninterrupted access to Consell services like nurseries, the music school and fitness centre”, said Ferrer, “plus we’ll be giving tax rebates to small-business owners in need and keep strengthening the social safety net for crisis-hit islanders, such as with food vouchers and, moving forward, renter’s assistance”. Ferrer insisted that such support wouldn’t require changing Formentera’s guiding vision. “We intend to move ahead with economic stimulus driven by substantial investments in infrastructure and towns”, she said, “and we certainly won’t renege on our long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability”.

Councillor Juan, for her part, tied legislative successes in 2020 to team work between representatives of PSOE and Gent per Formentera, something she said was key to “getting spending into line with islanders’ pandemic-era needs and requests, and delivering assistance to working islanders, renters and vulnerable segments of the population”. “The 2021 budget will further work to maintain and increase such services”, she said.

Social safety net and help for businesses
The economy and finance councillor underlined key features of the budget like increases in overall spending and a redirecting of resources toward keeping businesses open and supporting families and local farming. Escandell said money for the latter would approach €740,000 —a 55% increase compared to 2019— and pointed to hikes in investment and current transfers, drops in current income from the region and the urban estate tax (IBI) and a continuation of the administration’s commitment to zero bank debt.

Investment criteria
Escandell gave an overview of investment criteria projected to hold steady in 2021, starting with the island’s commitment to sustainability and efforts to recover natural spaces like S’Estany des Peix and enhance sustainable mobility and waste management.

Improvements will continue in towns as well, including phase two of upgrades in Es Pujols; work on Avinguda Miramar and on roads granting access to the Sant Ferran school and old persons’ home; creation of the skate and fitness park in Sant Francesc.

Heritage preservation constitutes another important feature of the 2021 budget —plans are currently in place to refurbish the Can Ramon home and build a cultural centre at the current site of the school in Sant Ferran— as does fomenting participation with the Consell d’Entitats Participatory Spending initiative.

A standout feature of the plan is its commitment to seniors, youth and children, with the island’s first old persons’ home, the Sant Ferran nursery, the skate and fitness park and the children’s play area in Sant Ferran all due to open.

23 November 2020
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

Formentera requests funding for upgrades in Es Pujols

The Consell de Formentera president’s office reports it has called on the regional government to help finance upgrades in holidaymakers’ hub Es Pujols. In correspondence, Consell president Alejandra Ferrer reminded Francina Armengol of support that the Balearic premiere and Spanish tourism ministry pledged to a project “to cement Formentera’s status as a tourist destination”.

Ferrer reminded Armengol of a presentation that the ministry, local island councils and the Balearic government gave before crowds at last year’s World Travel Market in London where details were made public about assorted tourism investment projects in the Balearics. “Formentera was the only island in the region to not receive funding at the time”, pointed out the Consell president, “and both the minister and Armengol pledged to budget for it in 2020.”

In the letter, President Ferrer also referenced the June 2019 adoption by the Spanish Tourism Ministry Secretary of State’s Sectoral Committee of a “Programme of Plans for Sustainable Tourist Destinations”. At the time, the Consell de Formentera proposed making Es Pujols the subject of a sustainability-driven image enhancement with water and waste management upgrades and plans to make the town universally accessible.

The project, which sought to transform “pioneer tourist destinations” to maintain their charm and competitiveness, failed to win the ministry’s backing.

New plea
On 30 October, the Balearic premiere announced details of a €100M deal with the Spanish Ministry of Tourism to invest in regenerating and improving tourism in the region from 2021 to 2023. “This funding is important our island”, said Ferrer, “and we wish to use it for phase two of the Es Pujols improvements project.”

President Ferrer asked for a promise from Armengol that Formentera would be given the necessary funding to execute the “crucial economic and tourism recovery project”.

16 November 2020
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

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