The Madrid City Council, which directs the PP in coalition with Citizens, decided this week to resume one of the most successful initiatives of convocation, not of execution, in the stage of Manuel Carmena and Now Madrid, the so-called Participatory Budgets, in which He invited residents to contribute their ideas, which were submitted to a popular vote on the municipal website. After two years paralyzed, José Luis Martínez Almeida and Begoña Villacís have recovered the idea. And although the groups have welcomed the announcement, the new guidelines presented and approved by the Governing Board do not convince the opposition, especially Más Madrid, Carmena’s heirs. But neither to the PSOE.
The main complaint is that these new Participatory Budgets contain a significant 75% cut in investment compared to what was allocated in the previous term, according to both opposition groups. According to the data offered by the Governing Board this week, the City Council plans an investment of 50 million euros for the period 2023-2024. Of these, 15 million, that is, 30%, will be dedicated to “projects that result in the improvement of the city as a whole.” The rest, 35 million, to “projects that benefit the districts.”
The new Participatory Budgets, which will be managed by the Delegated Area for Territorial Coordination, Transparency and Citizen Participation led by Silvia Saavedra (Citizens), will be biennial, not annual as before. A decision that, in the opinion of Carolina Pulido, secretary of the Más Madrid group and deputy spokesperson in the Vice Mayor’s commission, “not only reveals the little political importance that the government team gives to this process, but also reduces the size of the projects. that neighbors can present “.
Thus, if during Carmena’s mandate an annual investment of 100 million was proposed, now it will be 50 million every two years.
The socialist spokesman in the aforementioned commission, Álvaro Vidal, ratifies the data and sentence: “We are facing a clear setback in everything that smells of participation in this city council of Madrid, which shows how interested they are in participation and these participatory budgets” .
Although the Madrid Decide page encourages the participation of anyone who wishes, it also warns that not all suggestions will be accepted: “There are exceptions and projects that are not the responsibility of the City Council, that affect contracts, are not accepted. in force, that benefit a specific person or entity, that have been declared unviable (sic) or have been winners in previous calls, among others “.
Along with that, the possibility is established for the City Council to group projects that have a similar nature and purpose without counting on the proponents, as was done until now, which means that it will have the ability to unilaterally modify projects proposed and voted on by the citizens.
In the event that the projects affect activities that may be included in a service contract, it will be transferred to the managing bodies so that they can integrate it “as far as possible” in the planning of the execution of the contract. In addition to the aforementioned limitations, projects that pass this first filter may be declared unviable when they are incompatible with municipal plans; those that imply previous procedures “of uncertain result”; those whose execution extends beyond two years or those that are deficient “from the point of view of the cost-benefit relation”. “That is to say – laments Pulido-, the possibilities of declaring projects already voted unviable by political criteria and resorting to indeterminate concepts that broaden the discretion of the City Council are expanded.”
All of this leads Rita Maestre’s group to conclude that the new plans of the Almeida and Villacís City Councils “put an end to Participatory Budgets, at least as they are known anywhere in the world.” “The idea of participation was to give the people decision-making capacity. These guidelines revert that idea and create a process guided and supervised by the City Council from beginning to end,” concludes Pulido.
For his part, the socialist mayor adds that for his group “the big problem is the great stoppage that has occurred in 2020, the year in which there was no call.” And he concludes: “They claimed that there were many projects stuck from previous calls, which is true, although if they are such good managers they could have started to unblock them and carry them out so that the citizens who presented them would see that they were becoming reality. No they have done so and more than 200 have been eliminated for various reasons. On top of this, we now find a smaller summons that has started in 2021, but is not approved until 2023-2024 ”
One of the reasons that the government team of the PP and Citizens allege for not having convened the Participatory Budgets during this mandate has been the need to execute overdue projects. However, according to the opposition, in two years they have barely managed to execute about 110 projects, many of them started previously, “for not remembering that 25% of the projects that had been approved in the previous mandate were declared unviable, in some cases claiming political motives, such as, for example, saying that this project was not among their plans, “says Carolina Pulido.
Projects that stayed in the drawer
A few days ago, as reported by this newspaper, the Public Participation Area, which depends on the Vice Mayor’s Office of Begoña Villacís, declared in the Official Municipal Gazette “the supervening non-viability” of 182 citizen projects that received enough votes to be approved during the editions of the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Of the initial list only 11 were saved at the last moment.
The Madrid City Council justified with a panoply of 10 technical reasons to tear down those citizen proposals that were actually validated, before the voting, by the municipal technical services themselves during the period of Now Madrid in the Mayor’s Office. The most common of the reasons mentioned has been that of “technical and / or security infeasibility”, a reason that applies to one out of every three discarded projects. Others have also been applied, such as that involving “prior procedures with uncertain results” or affecting municipal contracts already in force.
Among the discarded projects are ideas of all kinds, although those that proposed the construction of bike lanes throughout the city are particularly affected: the council eliminates up to 20 initiatives related to cycling infrastructures in various districts, according to the published list it has had access We are Madrid.
Projects identical to others that were executed previously during the mandate of Manuela Carmena have also been suppressed. For example, the “Gardens in tree pits in front of schools and shops”, the most voted citizen idea in Chamberí in 2018 and which had been executed in 2017 with the same format in the Centro district.
All this leads the councilors who governed with Carmena to rule that “it is more than evident that the purpose of the government team is to destroy some progress in terms of citizen participation that had made our city an international benchmark.” “In just two years our city has regressed decades with the destruction of the City Observatory, the Local Forums, the Associative Campus, Medialab Prado, the eviction of citizen entities from municipal spaces, etc.”, Vidal laments. Rivet, “we believe that the requirements have been passed.”
“Legal certainty” and “viability”: the reasons of the City Council
These criticisms are refuted to elDiario.es by sources from the Department of Territorial Coordination of the Madrid City Council, considering that “both the amount and the new procedure are more orderly, effective and realistic, with a medium and long-term vision that contributes to a better planning, execution and monitoring of projects “.
As for the amount allocated, they disagree and assure that it is “higher than the amount that the previous corporation executed.” “They did not even execute the amounts they now criticize per year. The percentage of projects not executed was 82%, 998 projects out of 1,214, that is, only 191 were completed.” “The budget is in line with what has been executed by this and the previous government team,” they settle.
The same municipal sources add that “the new conditions for presenting ideas respond solely to avoiding the frustration of Madrid residents. The previous Government allowed projects that were unfeasible from the beginning to be admitted and voted on, but not for ideological reasons or of will or lack Some incurred technical and / or security unfeasibility; others were citizen proposals that referred to issues that are not the responsibility of the Madrid City Council; there were also projects for which similar actions already existed “. “We only strengthen legal certainty and the feasibility analysis so that every project that is approved, executed and is not forgotten in a drawer,” they defend.
The first phase, the presentation of projects by those registered in Madrid and over 16 years of age, is already underway: it began last Monday, the 20th, and will end on October 20. On that date, the second phase will be passed in which everyone who has duly registered in Decide Madrid will be able to vote for another month on the ideas they consider most interesting. The most voted will be analyzed later, in a third phase, by a municipal team to see if they have “technical viability due to their relevance, need or opportunity”, a process that will last another three months. This team “will issue a report on the technical and / or legal feasibility for each project and the estimated budget for the project or, where appropriate, a non-feasibility report.”