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Juntas de Freguesia

Dear Editor,

As I understand it, at present the government in Lisbon is looking at closing many rural Juntas de Freguesia (parish councils,) NOT for efficiency or even to meet needs, but simply, blindly, to save money and meet the EC/IMF/ECB Troika targets!  

People, they don’t matter! In fact, it already is happening, a number of urban JF, one Algarve example is Guia, are  proposed for closure, redundant. Does it matter to us, to others? Does it matter if rural areas live, have a future?

Well, one example. A rural one. Here the JF employs about 10 local people;  redoing tracks, maintenance etc. It has beautiful gardens, with a full time lady providing loving care and a high standard, a street cleaner who does an excellent job; except not where the gypsies camp constantly leave  huge amounts of rubbish, including nappies!

It runs a parish bus for the elderly in the more rural parts of the parish plus other ventures. More importantly, in modern (EC granted) offices, it runs the post office and provides advice, free internet.

Alongside these cuts, the Centro de Saúde (health centre) will go and also the pharmacy; without a doctor, there will then be no need for it (your article on chemist problems illustrates the mess the government is making. Here we have  a wonderful pharmacist, without her, the village, especially the elderly, would have problems).  

Like many rural areas, the loss will lead to an increasing rural decline; the younger will go, the school and shops eventually, leaving just the old.

No? Well, just look at the UK! Will it save money? Doubtful, as services will have to either go all together, or câmaras, most all in reality, bankrupt, will have to step in to the gap.

IF this happens, people will lose – but not politicians, elites, those living in the Lisbon area. The people affected will not be consulted, listened to – it is just about saving money.

Of course, Portugal, at this  awful time, needs to save (and more, importantly, needs growth) but who caused the problems?

As in most countries, was it not the politicians, the bankers? There are undoubtedly savings to be made – how about starting by cutting ministers’ pay?

Indeed, as far as Juntas de Freguesia are concerned, perhaps the opposite should happen – JF given more to do for their communities and allowed, like England, to fix a parish tax, independently. Then get rid of the bureaucratic empires called câmaras perhaps.

In the Algarve, replacing them with a regional council which does the macro things – roads, schools, health centres, policing, environmental policy … No, because Lisbon bureaucrats would lose power and câmara presidents would lose their pay!  

So will these closures happen? We don’t know as we are not involved. A decision is expected in October. IF they happen, people will lose much, but do they matter?

D Taylor-Smith

By email