The regional government of Madrid, headed by Cristina Cifuentes of the Popular Party (PP), has approved a bill aiming to eliminate the lifetime €5,500-a-month salaries given to its former premiers.
Joaquín Leguina of the Socialist Party and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and Ignacio González of the PP all stand to lose this money once the regional Advisory Council on which they sit is axed.
Eliminating the council was one of the chief demands made on Cifuentes by Ciudadanos in exchange for support for her investiture
Esperanza Aguirre, who headed the region between 2003 and 2012, does not sit on the council, whose 11 members also get an official car and an assistant.
The bill will now move to the regional assembly for fast-track approval, and Cifuentes hopes to shut down the body within a few weeks.
Eliminating the council was one of the chief demands made on the PP by Ciudadanos, a new anti-corruption party that was given the key to regional power when it won 17 seats on the Madrid assembly at the May 24 elections.
Cifuentes, whose PP earned 48 seats, was forced to seek Ciudadanos’ support for her investiture, and one of the measures to emerge from the negotiation was the closure of a body that many politicians, including some from the PP, view as a golden retirement package for outgoing colleagues.
The Advisory Council was created in 2007 by Esperanza Aguirre, the only former premier who chose not to accept a seat.
Madrid was the last Spanish region to create its own advisory body, but it was the most expensive one of all, with an annual budget of €4.3 million.
Cifuentes figures that the move will save the regional coffers €2.3 million, mostly in personnel expenses. There are 28 government workers on the rolls.
The 11 council members – nine with ties to the PP and two to the Socialists – meet around once a week at headquarters on the capital’s main Gran Vía thoroughfare, where they issue reports. Their gross salary is €8,500 a month, or €5,500 net.
The regional premier said the council’s job would now be performed by the Madrid government’s legal department through a new Legal Advisory Committee.
As to whether council members stand to be compensated in some way, Cifuentes has so far been non-committal.
“The future of the former premiers is something we need to address, to see what kind of status or recognition they are going to get,” she said, adding that the subject would be discussed with Ciudadanos.
The regional premier said she and her aides would analyze what administrations in other Spanish regions and parts of the world were doing. “We will try to use common sense.”
English version by Susana Urra.
“An elephants’ graveyard”
Long before Ciudadanos made its demand on the Popular Party’s Cristina Cifuentes, the United Left (IU) and Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) parties had already been asking for the elimination of the Advisory Council.
Gregorio Gordo, IU spokesman in the Madrid assembly until the May elections, when the group failed to win any seats, called the council “a golden retirement package and an elephants’ graveyard.”
“Its members draft a report from time to time, and besides having a salary, a secretary and a car, I’m not sure they do anything else.”