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By retooling 2020 budget, Formentera unlocks funding to help islanders cope with Covid-19 crisis

foto ple ix020Members of the Consell de Formentera gathered today for the island’s September plenary, a session that saw the GxF-PSOE cabinet secure the preliminary green light for a modification of the island’s 2020 budget. “The situation in November 2019 when this year’s spending framework was voted in is completely different to the one we’re in today”, quipped the chief of the finance and tax offices, Bartomeu Escandell. The pandemic and attendant crisis have forced a change in priorities, he continued, “and right now it’s crucial we devote resources to tackling this social emergency”.

Among the actions designed to supply urgent relief to islanders and local businesses, including €30,000 for Formenterers Solidaris and a €100,000 increase in social spending, €100,000 for student aid, €300,000 in food vouchers and €350,000 for freelancers and Isba loans, Escandell pointed to urgent relief amounting to €150,000 in renter’s assistance. “This boils down to a basic necessity for a great many Formentera families”, asserted the conseller.

Ca na Costa
The finance chief explained that an additional €900,000 included in the spending adjustment would enable the Consell to use the right of first refusal amid a potential land sell-off. “The Consell has been notified of the possible sale of Ca na Costa,” said Escandell, “if it goes forward and the price is right, the Consell will exercise its prerogative to acquire a heritage site which dates to roughly 2000 BC. Not only is Ca na Costa the oldest megalithic site in the Balearic Islands, but features like the chamber, perforated tiles, radials, outer platform and retaining walls make it wholly unique in the world”.

The Ca na Costa archaeological dig site was classed as a cultural interest asset in 1994. The remains of eight individuals figure among the materials uncovered there. Conseller Escandell said the land, which sits on 100,000 square metres at the eastern side of Estany Pudent, “is of an incalculable importance to Formentera’s heritage and the local environment”.

Refunding tax on dynamic advertising
Cross-party support also materialised behind a proposal to modify the guidelines of a tax on so-called dynamic advertising. Mobility chief Rafael González announced local government would be refunding in full the levy paid by taxi drivers to engage in dynamic marketing, reasoning that taxing such advertising “isn’t a priority during these times of crisis”.

Honouring law enforcement
A proposal to honour members of Formentera Local Police and other security forces received backing from both the GxF-PSOE cabinet and Sa Unió. “Amid emergency orders and afterwards, during this eminently atypical summer season, island law enforcement went above and beyond to ensure compliance with the imperatives of the public health crisis”, said the chief of the interior department. “These distinctions are a way to applaud those efforts.”

Assembly members voted to award the Cross for Police Merit to nine officers on the island force, including police chief Félix Ramos Pérez. Special Consell de Formentera honours went to chief commander of the Eivissa-Formentera Civil Guard, Enrique Gómez Bastida, “for his dedication and commitment to Formentera Local Police missions”.

Waste management contract
Cabinet members overcame opposition abstention to pass framework for the island’s waste management contract—“a necessary step in order to tender a crucial local service”, indicated environment chief Antonio J Sanz. The conseller said the terms of the contract were nearing completion and the offer would be put to tender pending plenary approval.

Another measure to pass with cabinet support despite opposition abstention was a partnership between the Formentera Department of Environment and Balearic Agency of Water and Environmental Quality (Abaqua) to upgrade the sanitation service and water purification plant. “This is a compact that hasn’t been renewed since 2005”, said the environment chief, “but it means Abaqua can continue running the plant without losing any of the new upgrades and maintenance funding that have been secured”.

Highway agreement
Assembly members granted support to a GxF-PSOE-brokered proposal to petition the central government to update its roads agreement with the island. Such a change could usher in road improvements as recommended in an investment report prepared by the Consell de Formentera and currently awaiting revision. According to the mobility conseller, the measure means holding Madrid’s feet to the fire on writing improvements of island roads into the Spain’s general 2021 spending plan.

Health care improvements
Another cabinet-brokered proposal to succeed despite the abstention of the opposition was a motion to petition the Balearic Health Service to restructure and expand face-to-face primary care at the Formentera Health Centre (Centre de Salut de Formentera, CSF). The change is aimed at equipping the CSF for differentiated care based on whether patients present respiratory difficulties, differentiated care for visits by paediatricians, replacements of absent staff and an upgraded system of online care.

An additional motion tabled by the opposition sought to urge the Balearic Health Service to upgrade dialysis spaces and terminals at the Formentera hospital and restore dialysis service on the island—“a change that would allow local patients to forgo travel to Eivissa”, reasoned social welfare chief Rafael Ramírez.

Progress report from Consellera Juan
Consellera Ana Juan stood before the assembly to take stock of efforts in departments within her remit. “Covid-19 has left us rattled, particularly in terms of well-being, and in this unusual and trying situation, vision, dialogue and consensus are more important than ever. The people of Formentera need to be our number-one priority”, she insisted.

Juan pointed to €150,000 in housing assistance adopted by members of the day’s plenary. The special line of assistance is designed to help low-earning families and “cohabitation units” access and keep rental housing. Meanwhile, she stressed that older islanders were one of the most vulnerable groups amid the current pandemic, and highlighted Covid-19-related measures at the start of the pandemic involving “telephone-based support and upwards of five hundred phone calls in an effort to detect possible victims of the disease who lived alone and needed help”.

Consellera Juan likewise described one project in early stages of development and receiving funding from the regional job seekers’ office that is geared toward local employment, training and entrepreneurialism and moving towards full employment in 2020–2023. She underscored an array of training and employment courses as well, “all aimed at reaching as many people as possible; we’re in an immensely tricky situation and need all hands on deck”. Juan’s review extended to cooperation with groups representing local businesses and sellers at Formentera’s outdoor markets —“a sector that generates wealth based on trust and proximity”, the consellera noted— to support and publicise commercial operations battered by the pandemic.

Lastly, unanimous support was secured for an official statement from the Consell on World Day against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Women, Girls and Boys, celebrated 23 September. As Local equality chief Vanessa Parellada put it, “equality between women and men will remain a chimera so long as women, girls and boys are bought, sold, exploited and prostituted”. Parellada insisted on the importance of abolishing prostitution and eradicating human trafficking for sexual exploitation. In the statement, assembly members declared that “as apparent with the first-ever ‘Feminist Classrooms’ event hosted last week, islanders stand united behind these principles”.

25 September 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Deal aims to boost hometown businesses

foto 2020 cel obert 1When deputy premier of the Balearic Islands and minister of energy transition and productive sectors Juan Pedro Yllanes sat down this morning with Consell de Formentera president Alejandra Ferrer, the two signed a pledge to collaborate around support of island businesses and, specifically, promotion of Formentera as an “open-air commercial space”. The aim of the deal, which also saw the involvement of two other officials —Miguel Piñol, who heads the Balearic commerce division, and Ana Juan, Formentera’s chief of housing, seniors, commerce and entrepreneurialism— is to develop Formentera businesses’ competitive edge and shape actions encouraging islanders to shop locally.

The investment made possible by the accord’s €14,000 in associated funding, to which Formentera pledges the remainder after a €10,000 contribution from the Balearic energy transition and productive sectors department, is designed to support development and promotion of business activity in the municipality.

“Help for small business is pivotal in these times of crisis”, insisted President Ferrer. Family-run establishments make up the lion’s share of small-scale commercial operations on the island; they also help guarantee cohesion and services. And Ferrer emphasised that this year with Covid-19 and the attendant crisis, hometown businesses and those offering essential services have been on the front lines. “They were the ones assuring access to services amid lockdown while others remained closed for months on end”, she said, “and they stayed open post-lockdown too, despite facing an unusual season, which is why they need our help now more than ever”.

For his part, the deputy premier described open-air projects as “integral to our plans to relaunch local economies”and proclaimed: “They’re a way for us to promote island businesses and urban centres while simultaneously diversifying economic activity”. “It’s the reason we’re working on similar agreements in as many Balearic municipalities as possible”, he concluded.

Following the initial encounter, the four officials discussed the agreement and the unfolding situation with members of the island’s small and medium-sized business association, Pimef, and the Formentera Chamber of Commerce.

24 September 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Consell renews partnerships with seniors’ clubs in Sant Ferran and Sant Francesc

foto 2020 conveni majors 2Consell president Alejandra Ferrer sat down today with Rita Costa and Julián Galindo, respective heads of Centre Social i de Majors de Sant Ferran and Club de Jubilats i Pensionistes de Formentera, to sign annual collaborative agreements with the two entities. First vice-president and seniors’ consellera Ana Juan was also on hand for the signing.

The Consell subsidises Sant Ferran’s centre for the elderly and the retirees’ club of Sant Francesc to the tune of €8,000 and €11,000, respectively. The money helps pay for maintenance and fund services, not to mention promote and sustain programming and community activities designed for the elderly.

24 September 2020
Department of Communication
Consell de Formentera

Consell offers health dept. two contact tracers and asks for better info on public health protocol

In a letter today from the Consell de Formentera president to Balearic health minister Patrícia Gómez, Alejandra Ferrer proposed local government’s assistance, in the form of two dedicated contact tracing staff, to contend with outbreaks of covid-19 popping up in the islands. Said Ferrer in her note, “We’re suggesting that these two individuals, hired by the Consell, receive protocol training from the health department and that they interface with department chiefs on a day-to-day basis to optimise coordination. It’s our feeling that the presence of people familiar with the on-the-ground realities of Formentera can go a long way to streamline and improve the work”.

President Ferrer asked Ms Gómez for “good inter-government communication so that Formentera’s policymakers can be clear on Govern directives at all times and keep islanders in the know accordingly”. “It’s crucial that the information we receive come quickly and from official sources”, said Ferrer, “especially when protocol changes and criteria or information updates are involved”. The only way people will follow isolation protocol is if they are informed, said the president, who reiterated a request for transmission data on an island-by-island basis, saying such individualised updates on new infections were essential to understanding the impact of transmissions and the measures being taken to contain them.

Ferrer concluded her letter by highlighting what she called “the overarching end-game”: “whatever form of collaboration helps us stop transmission and uphold public health protocol in the best way possible, particularly as we face the start of school and related activities”.

4 September 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Plenary participants champion expanded assistance for tourism sector

foto 2020 ple agostMembers of the Consell de Formentera gathered today for local government’s August plenary, an encounter that brought cross-party support for a proposal on expanding furlough packages and targeted aid for tourism sector businesses and employees. Alejandra Ferrer defended the proposal “in light of the unfolding pandemic, ongoing flare-ups and associated restrictive measures”—measures which the president affirmed constitute “serious obstacles for business owners and job holders on our island, particularly given Formentera’s summer-centred economy”.

Assembly members voted to urge Madrid to fund a doubling of furlough packages for companies for whom new outbreaks and decisions taken by leaders at the local and international level have meant forced closures or lost revenue due to cancelled bookings or reduced activity. They called on the central government to put in place targeted assistance for companies and workers in the tourism sector—a sector which, as President Ferrer pointed out, “is particularly reliant on summertime tourism, and even more so in the Balearics”.

Plan for seniors
Assembly members gave united backing to the Consell de Formentera’s pledge to activate an Integrated Plan for Formentera Seniors (Pla Integral de Gent Gran a Formentera) to “continue working with central and regional government administrations to tackle loneliness among the elderly”.

Vice-president and seniors’ department consellera Ana Juan spoke about care received by Formentera’s old people during the pandemic as well as the wider relevance of local seniors. “The public health crisis has intensified the problem of unwanted solitude here in the Balearics and across the country”, she said, calling on “engagement at every level of government in order to rout it”. Juan insisted that building awareness around the issue was a top priority, and highlighted the importance of “enlisting science and statistics to take specific steps to address the issue and prevent it”.

Scheduling for 2021 bank holidays was adopted as well. Given the feast days of Sant Jaume (25 July) and Sant Ferran (30 May) fall on Sundays, assembly members voted to observe the island’s festival days on the feast days of Santa Maria (5 August) and Sant Francesc (3 December).

OAC service in La Mola and Sant Ferran
Sa Unió party members proposed opening satellite Citizen’s Information Offices (OAC) to tend to islanders in La Mola and Sant Ferran—a measure that won the support of both the GxF-PSOE governing team as well as the opposition. Economy, tax office and general services chief Bartomeu Escandell offered that as soon as the Covid-19 crisis and budget allocations permit it, the expanded OAC service will “improve and facilitate the way islanders in the two neighbourhoods engage with local government”.

Cross-party backing additionally came for a Sa Unió motion to convene the Supervisory Board of the Formentera Audiovisual Administration. Culture chief Susana Labrador indicated the most recently scheduled session of the board had been suspended amid emergency orders and highlighted plans for a new meeting in September.

Report by Bartomeu Escandell
Bartomeu Escandell, who heads the local departments of economy, taxes and general services, stood before assembly members to take stock of the efforts in his remit, noting “every single aspect of these departments’ work has been affected by the severe public health and economic crisis we are facing”. On the subject of finances and taxes, Escandell said “the Consell’s books are in order and we’re on footing that’s sufficiently strong so we can cope with the challenges of these new times of crisis”. “If our administration’s financial solvency has any real value, it’s that it can help us diminish the sting of the pandemic and aid our people in tough times like these.”

As the government office that is closest to the people, Escandell emphasised the importance of “having our own resources so we can act efficiently to help people tackle problems. As we face the worst crisis of our time, our challenge at the economic level is to stay in a position where we can be providing the entirety of our services, and remain by the side of those who need us most.”

Escandell also indicated that during the months of strict lockdown, remote working proved viable across the distinct departments of the Consell, including those under the conseller’s responsibility: accounting, the clerk’s office, hiring and the OAC (Citizen Information Office). “The challenge was to dialogue with islanders across the OAC”, said Escandell, pointing to sharp increases in the number of islanders using the OAC’s online portal, the OVAC. “We saw a great deal of commitment to quality service on the part of staff”, he added, “who, as soon as the easing out of lockdown measures began, resumed providing services by appointment”.

27 August 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

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