Lagoa’s Mayor wary of taking over local schools and healthcare
The mayor of Lagoa has spotted the obvious flaws in the government’s mission to decentralise services to local Councils and is clear that, without a lot more financial information, he is not able to accept the deal on offer.
All councils will be forced to accept the government’s new deal in 2021 but Francisco Martins is not biting right now, fearing that the financial implications hidden deep with the ‘generous offer’ would leave Lagoa Council’s coffers empty.
The mayor said that, all along, Portugal’s councils have been asking for full financial information before taking over responsibility for schools, local police and medical centres, but the government has been vague with its promises.
Under pressure to accept the decentralisation deal by the end of January, some Councils have dived right in, such as Olhao’s mayor, the Socialist Party’s poster boy, Antonio Pina, who has signed up for everything that Lisbon wants to throw at him without regard to the possible impact on the Council’s finances which he alrerady treats with a certain laissez faire.
Lagoa’s mayor has taken a more cautious approach, well aware that staffing levels in healthcare and education already are well below legally prescribed minimums, leaving the Council to take on additional staff at ratepayers’ cost.
Francisco Martins described the legislation, that transfers certain centrally run activities to local Councils, as having many flaws, “The worst thing done in this country – and it’s done a lot – is to pass legislation which, from the outset, is already wrong.”
The National Association of Portuguese Municipalities still wants details of the financial package and of the accompanying guarantees, as do Councils and as do ratepayers who inevitably will end up footing the bill as government shifts a series of unknown financial obligations from Lisbon to the municipalities.