Angry parish council president accuses mayor of stalling ‘decentralisation’
The war in Ukraine waged by Russia is getting into everyone’s heads. At the congress of Anafre (the national council of parish councils) being held in Braga this weekend, the parish council president of Armação de Pêra called Silves mayor Rosa Palma ‘Putin’ for stalling decentralisation.
The day after President Marcelo called for “good sense” in the process of handing ‘powers’ (for this read ‘competences’) from municipalities to their parishes, the habitual decorum of council officials seems to have been thrown right out the window.
Ricardo Pinto told the conference: “In Silves, my council president thinks she still has all the power…” The PSD parish council president says he has repeatedly called for the transfer of competences to his parish council, in order to do a “great deal more” for the population.
“This is what we want to do, and have claimed. And what happens when we have this attitude? We are threatened by the mayor, by her councillors… that they will do everything to harm us, even personally. It seems we have Putin in Silves. It is no different…”
Rosa Palma, admittedly communist, has been mayor of Silves since 2013 – and, it has to be said, she is about as far from Vladimir Putin as Silves is from the Kremlin.
The Resident had the luck and pleasure to interview Ms Palma five days into her first term as mayor. We heard of her desire to truly ‘serve’ the people who elected her.
Not surprisingly, when Ricardo Pinto’s criticism reached her, Ms Palma was nonplussed.
“What kind of decontextualisation leads someone to say something like that?” She queried, confronted by Lusa. “I am very sad that he talked about me at Anafre and that he made such serious accusations”.
Refuting them completely, she said her executive has taken “incredible care” with the parish councils of the municipality, and proof of this is the “more than doubling” of the budgets that will be being transferred to these entities.
“Very strict criteria were taken into account; we had to consider the characteristics of the parish councils. If, in the view of the parish council president, this is not negotiating and treating parish councils with universality, without increasing council expenses, if this is being Putin, then Putin would have a lot to learn from us”, she said.
But, Ricardo Santos didn’t hear these words. He was in full flow at the Anafre congress, saying he would “continue the struggle… never being quiet, never giving up, never stopping fighting for Armação de Pera” which, thankfully he did not liken to Ukraine.
Marcelo wants secure but rapid steps
All the above fuss was really the antithesis of the message imparted by President Marcelo when he opened the congress in Braga yesterday.
“Decentralisation has to be done with balance, means, resources and making sure of the capacity of parish councils to effectively be able to exercise the powers transferred to them”, he said.
“Sure but rapid steps” was his ‘motto’ – almost certainly not expecting a parish council president to shortly afterwards compare a long-serving mayor with an ageing despot carrying out what can only be described as genocide.
Ricardo Santos wasn’t the only parish council president with steam to let off, however.
Expresso writes that “various” colleagues complained that they felt “discriminated against” and are “tired of being the poor relation” in the process of trying to access community funding.
The main thrust of lamentations was that parish councils want to be able to bid for European Cohesion funding – so that they themselves can make “true reforms”.
“We are the poor relation of democracy”, said one of the speakers, who claimed parish councils everywhere were fed up of having to go to municipal councils “with their caps in their hands”…
The central concern, voiced by President Marcelo in his opening address, is that whatever changes come, they must be ‘seized’. The European ‘bazooka’ of recovery and resilience money has a short time in which to be allocated and spent “and there will be no additional extension periods”, the president warned.
“It’s essential that the form of your participation and access to European funds and the PRR (plan for recovery and resilience) funds is defined”, he said – and as quickly as possible.
There did follow mention of Ukraine during the congress – with the parish councils wanting to show they all want to help and be involved in any initiatives to help the “innocent victims who are fleeing for their lives”.