Category: News

New Ambassador to Spain

The new British ambassador to Spain is a former Brexit chief who will replaces Simon Manley next year. Mr Manley CMG will step down from his role as the British Ambassador to Spain next summer and be replaced by a Brexit communications director.
Manley, 51, has held the post since 2013, but in 2019 will make way for Hugh Elliott, who is the current Director of Communication and Stakeholders at the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Father-of-three and Oxford graduate Manley wished his successor a ‘heartfelt welcome’ to his new job.
Elliott, who has held several high-level posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 1989, said: “It will be a pride and a pleasure to represent the United Kingdom in Spain and take over next summer.”
Despite his Brexit credentials, the FCO claimed the reason for Elliott’s takeover of the role from Manley is that ‘appointments change every 3 to 4 years.’ Elliott will hope to emulate the illustrious career of his predecessor, who had many highlights as a British envoy, including receiving a cooking lesson from the three-Michelin star-winning Spanish chef David Muñoz.
Another key moment of Manley’s diplomatic tenure was the recent Tertulias event, where Harriet Harman, Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband were accompanied by the ambassador in the 30th annual Anglo-Spanish celebration of bilateral and cultural links.
Manley said: “It has been the best charge of my diplomatic career, a great honour, and a pleasure to work to reinforce the bonds between our two great countries – and I’m not leaving, I have nine more months!”

Supreme Court rules client must pay mortgage tax

The Spanish Supreme Court has done a U-turn again and decided that it is the clients who must pay for a controversial mortgage tax, and not the banks. The Impuesto sobre Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) is a stamp tax paid in Spain by the homebuyer at the time of purchase, when a notary officially documents both the sale and the bank loan.
The decision was reached recently in the Administrative Division of the Supreme Court after two days of intense debate, and with just two votes of difference: 15 justices were in favour of making the client pay the levy, and 13 voted to confirm a groundbreaking decision reached by this same court in mid-October that it should be the banks who pick up the tab.
The vote comes after three weeks of legal chaos that have evidenced a fracture within the Supreme Court and damaged its public image. While bank shares started to gain value on the trading floor following news of the court’s decision, Spanish political parties, consumer groups and unions immediately issued highly critical statements.
Leaders of the anti-austerity Podemos party have already announced protests over a decision that “calls into question” the court’s independence and undermines democracy, in the words of party leader Pablo Iglesias. “Shame and anger should turn into a great civic mobilisation to defend the rights of the majority from the privileges of a minority,” he said.
Alberto Garzón, head of the United Left coalition, went even further: “Private banks are thieves, they are the main enemy of democracy and they are responsible for gutting our economies. A majority of the Supreme Court sides with them, ratifying that justice has a price and that the system is rotten and spent,” he tweeted.
Both leftist leaders called a street protest outside the Supreme Court.
“One cannot subject millions of families to such uncertainty and make such a spectacle of oneself,” said Albert Rivera, the head of centre-right group Ciudadanos.
The government of Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), has not yet taken a public stand on the issue, but said it will “analyse and study the impact of the ruling.” Reforms to existing mortgage legislation are already underway in parliament in order to adapt to EU norms, and the executive could introduce new measures to make the banks pay some of the costs now borne by clients. The secretary general of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Teodoro García Egea, confirmed his group will work toward legislative reform.
Earlier, Finance Minister María Jesús Montero had said that if the court ruled in favour of clients and made the measure retroactive for four years, the claims could have an impact on regional coffers of up to €5 billion. She warned that this could affect the national public deficit and compromise EU deficit targets.
“The impact on regional coffers in a four-year retroactivity scenario would be of €5 billion, but the claims would be directed at the lenders,” said Montero at an economic forum in Madrid. “It is not the state who would have to put up the money.”
A reversal
On 19th October, the president of the administrative division of the court, Luis Díez-Picazo, opted to revise the new criteria that the court had established days before, when a panel decided that it should be the bank, and not the client, who pays the AJD tax on the basis that it is the lender who needs a public document registering the loan, and not the homebuyer. This ruling in itself constituted a reversal of 20 years of jurisprudence confirming that clients are responsible for paying this tax.
A total of 28 justices from the Administrative Division of one of Spain’s top courts gathered to debate the new criteria, which ruled that the bank was the only party with an interest in getting the loan certified by a notary, because this is what allows the lender to initiate foreclosure proceedings if the borrower defaults on payments. Because the lender is awarded this privilege through the public document, the lender should pay the fee, said the judges on 13th October.
Had the judges decided in favour of homeowners this week, they would have also had to decide whether to make the measure retroactive – and how many years back – opening the door to claims from thousands of clients.
“Many of the decisions made by this division have consequences representing millions of euros,” said one judge. “We have to be aware of this to be able to make a very strict decision. But we cannot help that this fact has an influence on our decision. We are used to this.”
What is the ajd?
The Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) is paid on certain documents that are signed before a notary, such as a mortgage. The amount is a percentage of the loan, and this figure depends on the region of Spain where the home purchase is taking place. This tax is collected by the regional governments, and last year it represented a collective €8 billion in revenues. Some regions apply a 0.5 percent fee, such as the Basque Country. Others, like Andalusia or Aragón, have set this fee at 1.5 percent.+6+
However, the tax is not calculated on the amount of the loan itself, but on the mortgage guarantee, which is the sum of the loan amount, interest, late fees and legal expenses in the event of default – a fact that could significantly raise the final figure. The consumer group OCU figures that for a mortgage of €150,000, with a mortgage guarantee of €270,000 and an AJD rate of 1.5 percent, the fee would mean €4,050. This is on top of other transaction expenses involving the notary, property registrar, property valuation and gestoría.

We’ve got your back Millie

Local schoolgirl Millie is 13 years old. She is a keen dancer, she loves all types of sports and gymnastics – people who are acquainted with Millie know how active she is, always out and about on her roller boots and scooter.
Millie was diagnosed in 2015 with severe scoliosis. Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine; the last x-ray of Millie’s curve of the spine revealed elevation to a degree of 60/65. She has worn a back brace for the past three years to sleep in but unfortunately this has not worked. The rehabilitation specialist told Millie’s parents Emma and Steve that surgery is now the only option. Spain’s public healthcare system only offers the Harrington procedure as a surgical solution – this procedure involves metal rod fusion. Millie’s mum Emma explained, “We know this procedure works but Millie would have very limited flexibility and minimal quality of life, she would also never be able to dance or do gymnastics again. The traumatologist said that she would also need to wear a brace for 22 hours a day whilst she continues to grow and they would only be able to operate on her in a few years’ time.”
Emma continued, “As parents we want to give Millie the best opportunity in life that she deserves. I have met with Dr Juan Carlos Olaverri a private surgeon in Barcelona, he is one of only 20 surgeons in the world who performs an alternative procedures. He performs the VBT – Vertical Body Tethering and ASC – Anterior Scoliosis Correction procedures which are a lot less invasive and recovery is much quicker, this will allow Millie to continue to grow, hopefully without any further problems. The operation is lateral, but instead of a metal rod it incorporates a flexible cord into the side, which will allow the spine to straighten more as she grows. Dr Olaverri has advised that this procedure needs to be done sooner rather than later due to her age and expected growth spurts.”
Millie and her family hope that surgery can be scheduled on the 4th of February 2019. It will be necessary for Millie to be in hospital for 7 days, and then a further two weeks nearby in an apartment for aftercare from the surgical team. The cost of this procedure is in the region of €50,000.
Millie’s parents have kick-started a fundraising campaign in the hope that they can gather the funds needed to allow their daughter to live as normal a life as possible. They have set up a Facebook page called “We’ve got your back Millie” and have already garnered support from prominent local businesses such as The Christmas Shop and Venture Fleet as well as members of the public.
Emma said, “We are looking at fundraising suggestions and any merchandise or ideas that could be auctioned or donated. If there is anything that your readers can do or help in any way it would be greatly appreciated.”
To donate, simply visit the Go Fund Me page: www.gofundme.com/millie-spinal-operation
Alternatively, you can bring donations of cash or raffle prizes to Venture Fleet in Los Montesinos (see their advert on page 61 of the Costa Blanca People).

New buses on Torrevieja’s streets

Two new buses have been bought at a cost of more than half a million euros. The buses will be added to existing stock to improve the bus service in the town. Each bus offers 49 places as well as a double ramp for access. They have GPS and inside the bus there will be information for passengers about the next stop. The buses have internal LED lighting, WIFI and USB connection.
The councillor for transport in Torrevieja, Javier Manzanares, explained that this was part of a package of improvements to the local bus service. There has been some debate about the allocation of the bus service contract. The purchase of the buses is a move by the current transport company to continue to provide bus services in the town.
The bus service in Torrevieja is currently run by Grupo Avanza who are a Mexican multinational firm who acquired Costa Azul. The manager of Grupo Avanza, Luis González, explained, ‘It’s just one more step in improving the service which we want to develop in a progressive way.’
The town hall has openly shared its ambitions to take over the public transport and waste disposal services in the town. In the long term such a move could lead to substantial savings and increased efficiency but difficulties arise because of the need for huge investment to purchase the vehicles needed.
The announcement about the two new buses is in spite of Grupo Avanza being aware of this possibility and the fact that there is no contract for their services at the moment. ‘These new buses are the result of our commitment to the city,’ explained González.
The current bus service is free to residents of Torrevieja but there are problems with its frequency and the number of routes available. Currently eight lines operate in the town and those using the service report frustrations with the timing of the buses and the routes they take. The two new buses are already in operation and are at least an indication that something is being done to improve the service.

Drug traffickers distributed a thousand kilos of cocaine

Ten people have been arrested following discovery of a drug trafficking network linking South America to Torrevieja via Portugal. The undercover operation was a joint one between the Guardia Civil and the National Police and it is believed that it was responsible for the distribution of a large amount of cocaine from Alicante to different provinces such as Madrid and the Canary Islands.
The ten people arrested have been detained in prison and will be up in court number 2 in Torrevieja accused of crimes against public health, money laundering, possession of illegal weapons and being members of a criminal organisation. Three more people are being investigated for the same crimes but have been released on bail.
In total, 14.4 kilos of cocaine was seized, 10.4 kilos of marijuana, 1.6 kilos of hashish and 50 grams of amphetamines. Police have also taken €610,380 in cash, nine high-end vehicles, a 9-mm gun with ammunition and different types of computer equipment. Altogether the haul is valued at €1,763,000.
The operation to uncover the ring began in September 2017 when a load of cocaine arrived in Portugal from South America in a catamaran. On investigation it was discovered that its destination wasn’t Portugal but Torrevieja from where a gang was operating transporting drugs along the coast to Andalucía, Madrid and the Canary Islands.
Because the gang were spread across a number of provinces, catching them required a consistent effort across different police forces. It was also discovered that the gang had a workshop in Almería where they were preparing vehicles to transport drugs and money. The gang had also created a number of businesses to launder the money created by drug sales. They had twenty-six million euros to bring back into the economy without looking suspicious.
The first detention took place in June when 11 kilos of cocaine was being transported in a car between Alicante and Andalucia. The car was driven by a 65 year old man from Orihuela and the cocaine was hidden in the false floor of the car. A few days afterwards another vehicle was intercepted in Huelva after returning from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. A total of €528,000 in cash was hidden in carefully concealed pockets in the car.
These discoveries led to more arrests in Alicante, Almería and Córdoba. One of those detained is believed to be the leader of the ring who comes from Crevillent and is the owner of the workshop in Almeria where the vehicle modifications were taking place. Five searches were made including in Guardamar del Segura and more drugs, vehicles and even a machine for counting money were discovered.
A second phase of the operation began more recently and concluded with six detentions and investigations in Madrid and Cádiz. In total another 10 kilos of marijuana, 1.6 kilos of hashish, 200 grams of cocaine and 50 grams of methamphetamine were seized. Police also found a 9mm gun with ammunition, three fake guns and five high-end vehicles as well as a variety of computer equipment and mobile phones.

This year, Remembrance Sunday fell on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, making the commemorative events even more poignant. There were a series of services held across the Costa Blanca. A crowded church in La Siesta played host to Saturday’s ceremony where the RBL standards, as well as those of RAFA, RNA and RMA, were accompanied by the music of Torrevieja Pipes and Drums. During the service, prayers were offered by Fr Richard Seabrook before the Last Post was played by Ian Gibson of the JB Brass Band. Music was also provided by the Royal British Band in Spain led by David Last with vocals by Crescendo International choir.
Andy Kirkbride sang ‘Bring him home’ after which the standards, followed by dignitaries and wreath holders, moved to the cenotaph located in the church garden area where wreaths were laid.
On Sunday morning, hundreds gathered at the church in Mil Palmeras where the Orihuela Costa and District Branch held its annual service led by Pastor Keith Brown. Such was the extent of the crowd, the service was transmitted on a a large screen to a congregation of over 600 people.
Guests included the British Vice Consul Sara Munsterhjelm and the Chairman of the RBL Spain District North, Don Cubbon. They were joined by the mayor of Pilar de la Horadada, Ignacio Ramos, and five of his councillors along with Orihuela councillors Sofia Alvarez and Luisa Boné.
The standards were led to the church accompanied by Torrevieja Pipes and Drums and the Last Post was performed again by Ian Gibson. The RBL band provided musical accompaniment throughout the service. There was an incredibly moving performance of ‘Bring him home’ by RBL supporter Stevie Spit. The ceremony moved out to the brand new Garden of Remembrance, where dignitaries and guests laid wreathes in remembrance and members of the public added their own poppy crosses in memory of family members and lost friends.
Gran Alacant and La Marina Branch of the Royal British Legion, in association with the Ayuntamiento of San Fulgencio, also held their annual Service of Remembrance on Sunday while The Royal British Legion in Hondon Valley had conducted theirs a day earlier in Hondon de las Frailes.
The final event of the weekend took place in Campoverde on Sunday evening.

Winter Beach success in Orihuela Costa

The Councillor for Beaches, Luisa Boné has highlighted the success of the Winter Beach activities and reminded people if they haven’t yet tried them out there’s still time. The activities have been hugely popular with a high number of people taking part in the fun, water-based weekend events.
Last weekend, 6th and 7th October around 200 people enjoyed diving, yoga, zumba, aqua aerobics, canoeing, paddle boarding and children’s workshops at La Caleta beach in Cabo Roig.
Councillor Bone said: “It is the third week of the new season of “The Winter Beach” programme and we are now confident that we are fulfilling the expectations, given the large number of participating users arriving for some of the activities such as paddle boarding and in the introduction to diving. There are still activities every weekend and these will continue until the first weekend of December.”
“The Departments for Beaches and Youth wanted to try water sports outside the summer season, since we have a mild climate and beautiful beaches that make it more than viable to use them for most of the year.”
Mar Ezcurra, Councillor for Youth, said: “We are carrying out an important commitment to these activities so that you can enjoy the beaches of Orihuela as a family throughout the year, since they are activities that cover all ages for spend a nice day and step to know the charms of our beaches. ”

Tapas and Gin & Tonic

The councillor for Tourism, Sofía Álvarez, has presented the VI edition of the Tapas and Gin & Tonic route, which will take place from 16th to 18th November.
She said: “This is one of the activities carried out by this Council that is most welcomed by the hospitality sector, by the residents of Orihuela and by the visitors that are received during that weekend in our municipality.”
New for this year’s event, the registration period has been extended for bars, restaurants, coffee shops and confectioners wishing to participate, and is open from now until Thursday 18th October. To register businesses must submit the application to the General Register of the City Council, which can be collected at the Tourist Office or downloaded from the website: www.orihuelaturistica.es. “It is a great opportunity to enjoy our cuisine, as well as visit the historic centre of Orihuela; walking through the streets and making stops at the establishments involved in this activity,” explained Councillor Alvarez.
This year the categories are: Gourmet Tapa, Traditional Tapa, Sweet Tapa and Gin & Tonic and establishments can participate in all of the proposed categories. They can also present tapas suitable for celiacs.
The Councillor said that a presentation of all the tapas and gin-tonics that have registered to participate will be made on Monday 22nd October before the media and the jury, in the María Moliner library.
The establishments that take part will be given a photograph of the dishes and drinks they enter, so they can use it to help promote their business in future.
The Councillor said: “We are inviting all hospitality venues across the catering sector to join this initiative to help us continue to position Orihuela on the map as a tourist destination, attracting more tourists than those who already come each year to savour the rich gastronomy of Oriola.”

Outcry against giant plaster mine in San Miguel

A project to open a plaster mine which would decimate 1,450 hectares or 14.5 million square metres of land in San Miguel de Salinas has received a huge outcry from residents across the area. The mine would sit on the north-west-south facade of the municipality affecting most of the residential urban areas of the municipality and its economy.
San Miguel thrives on tourism and real estate but the mine would see these plummet along with related sectors such as retail, hospitality and construction. Agriculture would also suffer and all aspects of urban and rural life and livelihood would see adverse affects. In short the open cast mine would see house prices drop dramatically and the town would become a shadow of its former self as tourists dwindle and people move away. In particular the mine would border Torre Estrella and Ciudad de las Comunicaciones.
Manolo Gomez, President of the residents association San Miguel Arcangel, said: The town is now facing a a waste treatment plant on its eastern side and the open cast mine on its west and northern sides.”
The mining company, which is part of the Torralba Group, has sought permission from the authorities in Alicante to investigate and test the land for a proposed gypsum mine. Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate. It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer, and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and plasterboard. The mine would spread from the Camino de la Balsa road up to Torre Estrella and Ciudad de las Comunicaciones, over to La Pedrera reservoir and down to the CV-95.
If the mine goes ahead it would also be a serious blow to the future Sierra de Escalona and Dehesa de Campoamor natural parks. Some 1,065 hectares of the proposed site overlap with the ZEPA area of the Escalona, a special protection area for birds. The Sierra de Escalona and Dehesa de Campoamor have been declared protection areas for the Imperial Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle, in addition to having one of the most densely populated European Eagle Owl populations.
Despite the fact that the project was submitted in May 2016, the is still in its preliminary stage and only came to light recently – on 31st August – when the company’s proposal had to be released into the public domain along with the request for the Investigation Permit. The second stage would be the application for an Exploitation Permit.
Joint action
Manolo Gomez said: “It is very important to carry out actions now so that the authorisation of the Research Permit is not granted and the project is cancelled because otherwise, once the Research Permit is granted, the company acquires exploitation rights over the deposit and it could require the government to compensate it for loss of profits.”
According to a 1973 Spanish mining law, mining is classed as an ‘industry of general interest’ and this allows farmers and landowners to have their land expropriated under a compulsory order. Other local areas and their residents would also be affected by the number of large lorries needed to service the mine.
Manolo Gomez added: “As citizens we cannot consent in the 21st century that private busineeses and interests shape our territory and decide our future and affect our lives. Faced with this serious situation we have promoted the creation of a neighbourhood coordinator to bring together the widest possible social spectrum to address this problem and we have also proposed to the City Council that we join forces in the face of such a challenge.”

Hospital waiting times announced

Torrevieja hospital has announced that during the summer months the average waiting time in casualty was 45 minutes. Altogether the department attended to 78,282 emergencies which is around 851 a day. Of these, 46% were foreigners mostly from the UK, Ireland, France, Morocco and Norway.
The statistics refer to the months of July, August and September. Every year they are analysed to check on the impact that the tourist season has upon the ability of the hospital to function well. The average waiting time of 45 minutes is considered to be below the average across the country and below the figure last summer.
‘These figures have been achieved through planning at all emergency points,’ said Pepa Soriano, director of nursing. ‘Enabling the Department of Health of Torrevieja to respond effectively to demand during the hottest months.’
The swell in population was accommodated without the need to open up the additional hospital beds that are available on the second floor. These are there in case of a sudden peak in demand or a more extensive emergency situation arising.
Although there are more emergencies during the summer months they tend to be less serious and prolonged than during the winter period. During winter there is an increase in the number of respiratory problems which tends to lead to a need for more beds for a longer period of time. Many of the summer emergencies can be dealt with quite quickly and without the need to occupy a bed.

Drugs mafia uncovered

The Guardia Civil has broken up an organisation who have been cultivating marijuana in Alicante province. The organisation was a large and well-established group who were responsible for growing up to 80,000 plants a year in different locations across the area.
In order to provide electricity to their plantations they connected into the supply beneath pavements in what was a sophisticated operation. The Guardia Civil has arrested five men, four of whom are Dutch, a Dutch woman and a Moroccan. All those arrested are between 39 and 46 years old.
The operation began in August when the Guardia Civil raided one source of the plants and began to realise that this was a network on a grand scale. Many of the plantations were located inside houses and altogether it is believed that around 20 houses have been used to cultivate the plants.
Not only did the organisation grow the plants, they also cultivated their own seeds. The small plants that resulted were then distributed amongst the farms across the province. It is believed that the majority of the drugs were in fact exported to the Netherlands, with some also being distributed in Germany and Belgium.
The farms used systems to control the temperature and humidity and also had sophisticated alarms to alert the men to any intruder. In one of the raided houses they found a semi automatic pistol with silencer, more than 7,500 euros, jewellery, watches and two luxury vehicles.
Six people have now been arrested and charged with the illegal possession of firearms, drug trafficking, belonging to a criminal organisation and three crimes of using electricity power illegally.

Butterfly Children benefit from fundraiser

Another fantastic fundraising night raised a record-breaking €7,036.14 at The IX Butterfly Charity Ball in aid of The Butterfly Children’s Charity, DEBRA. The event was held recently at La Marina Camping Resort, La Marina, organised by Mary Chambers and Sue Rogers.
The glittering annual event hosted by Tommy Rogers was attended by 200 guests and they enjoyed a pool-side Cava reception followed by a three-course meal in the La Marina Restaurant and top entertainment courtesy of VJK.
The Butterfly Children Charity has been supporting EB families for 25 years and was honoured this year to have Diego and his family attending the event. Diego is a 9-year-old boy with EB a devastating condition. Along with Tommy Rogers, Diego helped raise the amazing amount. His personality won over the crowd and was key to encouraging people to donate more and more.
There were three winners on the Lucky Numbers competition, who won €50 each, they were: Sue Rogers, Carol Barkway and Ann Stobo and Sue and Carol kindly donated half of their winnings back to the charity. The main prize of the evening was €250 in vouchers for Zenia Boulevard, and was won by Kim and Roger Nickolds. There were many other prizes won on the night, such as a Kindle table, travel vouchers, prizes donated by hair and beauty salons and restaurants, a golfing voucher and hampers.
The auction allowed many of the guests to bid for bottles of Bollinger Champagne, green fees and buggies from La Finca Golf, Villamartin and Las Ramblas. Hotel vouchers from Sunset Beach Club, Benalmadena and the prestigious Hotel Puente Romana, Marbella were also money raising lots.
Once again, this year the Golden Butterfly was a great success with 20 Butterflies available at €50 each. The guests’ generosity meant all of the golden butterflies were sold and the winner was Tanya Taylor receiving €500. There were also numerous individual donations from the guests, all of which combined to allow the charity to raise its largest amount ever in one single event.
The Butterfly Children Charity would like to thank everyone who worked extremely hard behind the scene to make this event such a success, Tommy Rogers who hosts this event every year. All the local business from La Marina down to the Costa del Sol who continue to donate wonderful prizes, Pedro and all his staff at La Marina Camping Resort for all their hard work and for looking after all of the guests; and of course all of the guests who attend the event and who gave so generously to DEBRA. Without their support the event would never have happened. Next year’s Butterfly Charity Ball will be on Friday 27th September 2019, if you would like to attend this event, please contact Mary Chambers on 616 076 072.

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