municipalities

municipalities
   Municipalities, of which there are some 8,022 represented in the country's town and city halls (ayuntamientos), have a long history in Spain, many of them possessing ancient royal charters. They vary enormously in size, from those of cities like Madrid and Barcelona, with roughly four and two million inhabitants respectively, to small villages with no more than a hundred citizens.
   Article 140 of the constitution of 1978 states: "The constitution guarantees the autonomy of the municipalities. They shall enjoy full legal status. Their government and administration are the responsibility of their respective town halls, made up of the mayors and councillors." The basic institutions are the full council (pleno) and the commission, each headed by the mayor (alcalde). While the existence of these is a legal requirement, only the larger ones tend to set up additional bodies, such as administrative departments and advisory committees.
   The pleno is the rule-making, elected body of the ayuntamiento. It is made up of councillors (concejales) who are elected by direct, universal suffrage. In accordance with the law of 1985, the number to be elected is determined on the basis of proportional representation, modified to allow for a minimum of five councillors per municipality. The D'Hondt system is employed for the allocation of seats between the competing parties. Electors vote, not for individual councillors, but for municipality-wide lists on which there is a predetermined ranking order headed by each party's candidate for mayor. Councillors serve for a period of four years and there is no limit to the number of terms they may serve. The council cannot be dissolved mid-term and the regular elections are controlled by central government. The council has no authority to draft major laws, only to issue regulations (ordenanzas) which must conform to legislation emanating from either the national or relevant regional parliament. Among the major responsibilities of the pleno are: to approve the annual budget; to prioritize expenditure; to approve the accounts; and to control and oversee the work of the commission
   The services carried out by a municipal council depend on its population size. All are required to provide public lighting, cemeteries, refuse collection and street cleaning; those with a population of over 5,000 are also responsible for public parks, libraries, markets, water supply and sewage treatment; those with a population of over 20,000 are also required to provide social services, police and fire services; and only those with a population of over 50,000 are also expected to have systems of urban transport and environmental protection. While councils can earn some revenue from a council tax (comunidad) and such things as car-parking charges and fines, the bulk of funding for the municipal authorities comes from central government.
   See also: elections; taxation
   Further reading
   - Bosch i Roca, N. (1988) "Spanish Local Government: Territorial Organization and Financing", Planning and Administration, 15 (1): 6–17.
   - Newton, M.T. with Donaghy, P.J. (1997) Institutions of Modern Spain, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (chapter 8.3 deals with most aspects of municipal administration).
   MICHAEL T. NEWTON

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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