Colau’s plan for Barcelona: new utility firm taxes and an end to official cars

The leftist group that won Sunday’s elections promises big changes in the coming months

Ada Colau, leader of BComú, envisions sweeping changes in Barcelona.
Ada Colau, leader of BComú, envisions sweeping changes in Barcelona.Albert Garcia

“Ambitious” but “doable.” That is how Barcelona en Comú (BComú), the leftist coalition that won municipal elections in Barcelona on Sunday, has defined its own “Action plan for the first months in government,” a document the group made public even before completing its campaign platform.

The alliance of social movements and left-wing parties led by Ada Colau, an activist who fought prominently against home evictions during Spain’s economic crisis, is considering a range of high-profile measures for the coming weeks.

Among these are fines for banks that hold empty properties, a new tax for electricity companies, free public transport for the under-16s, reintroducing a tramway on Diagonal avenue, and a municipal subsidy for low-income households.

One of the most eyebrow-raising measures involves “imposing taxes on electricity companies for their occupation of public space”

Barcelona en Comú also plans to reduce elected officials’ salaries and eliminate official cars altogether, audit public agencies and put a freeze on the opening of new hotels. It will also review past privatizations.

The master plan envisions an investment of €160 million, to be spent between the end of this year and the first half of 2016. Of this amount, €50 million will go towards the creation of 2,500 new jobs through training programs and the indirect creation of sustainable positions in property renovation, waste management, neighborhood businesses, caregiving and the cooperative economy.

The city will also check its providers’ working conditions, review all existing contracts, and increase inspections in the tourism sector.

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With home evictions a major concern for BComú, the group says it will sit down with lenders that are evicting people from their homes while keeping a portfolio of empty repossessed properties. Colau’s coalition will fine those that persist on this course of action, in accordance with Catalan legislation setting out the right to a home.

The winners of Sunday’s elections are also promising to reinforce school cafeteria programs and create more spots to allow needy children to eat there in the summer months as well.

On the issue of “energy poverty,” BComú is also talking about negotiating with utility companies. One of its most eyebrow-raising measures involves “imposing taxes on electricity companies for their occupation of public space.”

BComú’s key welfare measure is a municipal income check for families below the poverty threshold. The initiative is expected to cost around €25 million.

Another major item in BComú’s action plan is looking at ending privileges granted to elected officials

Ada Colau’s group also says that it is going to review licenses that have already been granted to build a hotel with funding from Deutsche Bank and to enlarge the La maquinista and Heron City shopping malls. It will furthermore analyze the private management of new children’s daycare centers.

Another major item in BComú’s action plan is considering the ending of “privileges.” This includes a review of public salaries, setting a monthly ceiling of €2,200, and the elimination of official cars and “unjustified stipends such as those paid out for attending meetings.”

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