By Chris Graeme
DEBT-RIDDEN local authorities have been forced to cut corners on costly Christmas illuminations this year.
Santárem (in the Alentejo) and Almada (Lisbon) are the only two câmaras to retain the same level of spending on street decorations relative to 2005. All other câmaras throughout the country have contained costs or kept expenditure to the same level as 2005, but below the level of inflation.
In total, câmaras up and down the country will fork out 2.7 million euros on Christmas illuminations as opposed to 2.8 million euros in 2005, with Lisbon spending the lion share (1.2 million euros) – half of the other câmaras put together. However, the câmara’s financial officer, Fontão de Carvalho warned that next year the council would have to seek “alternative sources of funding” including sponsorship.
Rui Rio, Mayor of Porto said that the 500,000 euros being spent on lights in the city was “a lot of money and that in 2007, things would have to change”. Yet the amount spent on lights for Christmas is the same as in 2002. Before Rio took the helm at the câmara in 2001, the PS were in power in Porto and 800,000 euros was spent on Christmas lights.
On the other side of the Douro in neighbouring Gaia, Christmas lighting will cost 110,000 euros.
If the main câmaras tighten their purse strings others will likely follow suit, but there are still cases, such as Ílhavo (in central Portugal), which simply hasn’t got any money for illuminations this year.
In 2006, Batalha (central Portugal) has spent between 15,000-20,000 euros, Peniche (central Portugal) 14,500 euros, Bombarral (central Portugal) 17,000 euros, Lamego (northern Portugal) 20,000 euros, Águeda (central Portugal) 11,000 euros, Sesimbra (Lisbon) 15,000 euros and Tavira (Algarve) 30,000 euros.
Figueira da Foz (central Portugal) is spending less than half of what it spent in 2005, (26,000 euros), but promised that the main streets would be well-illuminated this year. In Vila Nova de Poiares (central Portugal), câmara president, Jaime Soares, said they would “have to raid the family silver to see what they could come up with” as the câmara “could not even think about spending the 30-35,000 euros it did in 2005”. However, the câmara in Guarda (central Portugal) bought much of its lights for 2006, in 2005, enabling it to make substantial savings.
Faro in the Algarve, usually the most spendthrift câmara in the region continued thetradition this year, spending 153,000 euros. In Portimão, the Christmas lights budget is 194,000 euros, while in Albufeira the câmara spent 70,000 euros less this year (250,000 euros), while Lagos spent 180,000 euros.
In Greater Lisbon, Isaltino Morais, Mayor of Oeiras slashed the budget from 308,000 euros to 250,000 euros, while Cascais cut its expenses from 214,000 euros to 170,900 euros.
Amadora remained at 150,000 euros, while Sintra refused to divulge its budget for lights and Loures slashed its spending down to 100,000 euros.
South of the river Tejo expenditure was also greatly reduced, with Seixal shelling out 50,900 euros, Alcochete (7,000 euros), Barreiro (40,000 euros), Sesimbra (16,555 euros) and Almada the exception (170,000 euros).