The new head of the PSOE in Torrevieja, Fanny Serrano, gave her first interview to the British press this week, detailing the government’s plans for the future of the municipality.
When asked about the importance of forming a government that would oust the Partido Popular after 27 years, Serrano commented that “it´s not so important, the problem is not PP, the problem is that Torrevieja was stagnant, stopped, so we need to start a new Torrevieja”, continuing, “the problem is 27 years of the same thing”.
The government of Torrevieja is now formed of a collection of parties that are forming a coalition, but by the very nature of those parties collaborating, the government of Torrevieja is now formed by councillors who received the most votes. When asked if that was important, Serrano responded, “Yes, that´s the most important thing. That´s democracy, although correcting one element, saying, “you call it a coalition, I call it the government”, then explaining how the government is formed by representatives of “62% of the population, we got the majority, that´s democracy”.
The former head of the PSOE, Ángel Saez, stepped down after the elections, taking personal responsibility for the reduction in votes that the PSOE received compared to the last elections four years ago. When asked if Eduardo Dolón of the PP should resign having lost the municipality after 27 years, Serrano said, “I´m not going to talk about another party”, but wanted to thank Ángel, “a very honest and responsible person”, who decided that if the results were worse than 4 years ago, he would take responsibility, “it was his decision, but we very much appreciate his decision which has come from a very honest person”.
The current mayor, José Manuel Dolón of the Los Verdes green party, was voted by the majority of councillors in the corporation and so took on the role of head of the government. As part of the agreement to form a government, the mayor will be a rotating post during this four-year term, with Dolón taking power for the first half, and Serrano herself taking over for the PSOE after two year.
When asked what motivated the decision to place Dolón in power first, Serrano replied, “José Manuel Dolón has been at the town hall for years, he really knows the city, the town hall, the government, everything, and it is something that he really deserved, to be the mayor of Torrevieja”.
Serrano was then asked about the pay cut that the new mayor has forced on himself, which was applauded by many, Serrano explained that “he is retired, like many of the people who live here, he has a pension, so he decided not to get more money from the public”, and so that money will be able to be spent on public services, which is “absolutely different”. Incidentally, the councillors will now be using their own mobile phones, paid for by themselves, thus saving even more money from the public purse.
With a coalition formed in Orihuela after the last election, the obvious question was as to how it could work in Torrevieja, given the problems so early on in the neighbouring municipality. Serrano explained, “it´s absolutely a different situation”, in Orihuela, as well as the main parties, one of the three was a coalition”, the two parties of CLARO and CLR formed together, “that was the problem”. In Torrevieja, we have five parties, with the same program, the same vision for Torrevieja, and all going in the same direction. That´s the difference for Torrevieja, we have no coalition inside the government”.
When asked about becoming mayor in two years, Serrano was asked about the unusualness of the situation, responding, “no, it´s not so unusual, it´s the new politics”, explaining how Spain now has more parties than ever before, and what “the citizens want is for everybody to discuss, everybody talk and then get the best solutions for the citizens, and not one party saying ‘I´m going to do the things in that way and that´s the way, I´m not going to change anything’, no. We´ve got five, six or eight, it doesn´t matter, the change of the government was very clear. PSOE got 4 councillors, Los Verdes got 4 councillors, so both parties got the same number of councillors. It´s normal that both of the parties, Los Verdes and PSOE, have the right to be the mayor. But, from the PSOE, we understand that José Manuel Dolón deserves that situation first”.
The subject then turned to corruption and how Torrevieja, like many other councils, has been marred by numerous scandals in the past. “That´s very sad”, was the reply, but when asked what safeguards there are for the future, Serrano explained that the first point made by the new government, “was no to the corruption”. Explaining that it is very important for them, and they are “going to denounce every single case” that they find, as well as pursuing the current cases which are proceeding, such as the mobile phone scandal, the expenses in the municipal theatre, and other urbanism cases such as the waste disposal site and anything new that they discover, as they are “not going to allow any single case of corruption in the town hall”, stressing, “no more corruption”.
When asked about how Torrevieja has become rundown in recent years, with many streets filled with closed business remises, Serrano said, “for us it is very important,,, What we want to get is a more lively city”, it has to be cleaner and a “place that people want to be. That´s very important for the heart of the city, cleaner, greener with more spaces for the public and we are going to start with this. We are going to start with all the environmental matters to make Torrevieja better, but more lively”.
As for bridging the gaps between the city and urbanisations, especially that many of the residents in urbanisations feel neglected with a lack of police patrols, street lights failing, and many other problems, the question of how the government will solve that problem was responded by the comment, “we want to stop this separation between Torrevieja central and the surrounding urbanisations. It makes no sense, it is all Torrevieja”. The PSOE planned to have a rolling plan for councillors to visit urbanisations, which “we plan to continue”. But, “we want the neighbours from the urbanisations to come to the town hall, to speak to us, just talk to us, write and tell us what´s happened, because now everything is open, we are not as closed as we used to be”.
On the subject of reversing the damage by the General Plan, the government will now be forming a new plan that changes things back to offer protection to areas which have been changed, such as the protected nesting land which permission has been granted for the construction of a DIY store, and other protected land where permission has been given for a rubbish dump, “today we start with this. Today! I just gave instructions to the technicians to start with this procedure, because it is absolutely necessary”. Torrevieja has an “old plan with 103 modifications. That´s incredible, It´s the most changed plan in the whole of Spain. It´s absolutely incredible. Nobody can understand why” there as so many change.
One of the most speculated issues has been the threatened closure of the International Residents Office. This has been vehemently denied. Serrano said, “absolutely not. I couldn´t believe that you asked that question. I think the problem is that the PP think everything is their own. ‘It´s my office, it´s my town hall’, no, it´s not yours, it´s for the citizens. The foreigners office is from the town hall, it´s for all citizens, so you can´t just close it in that way. I can´t understand why somebody would say something like this. It´s incredible!”
The plans submitted by the PSOE before the elections to increase the staffing in this office were raised “yes, of course” was the immediate response. When asked about improvements, “we have to study everything”, Serrano replied, “there are other departments which are over represented, so we need several weeks to study each department and make decisions”.
When asked about the fact that some people think that what has happened to Torrevieja is a disaster, Serrano responded, “they are wrong. Because the disaster was PP, absolutely”. Continuing, “what we have discovered after just one week, maybe you think everything was clear, but the problem is it´s not true. With the PP, I do everything on my own, without regulation, out of law, and so on. We just discovered a carpet with a lot of rubbish swept under it”. The government now plan to, “open the windows, open the doors, sweep the carpet, open everything, we want to listen to the citizens”, concluding that, “Torrevieja is going to be the best city”, a “new Torrevieja, a lively city, but overall, for us, foreigners are very important. We have more than half of the population which is foreign, The PP forgot the foreigners, they only look for you when they need you, every four years, just to vote. We don´t want that, we want an interaction between the foreigners, the Spanish, the government and so on, we want another kind of town”.