ERC fails in its attempt to reprove Barcelona council over tourist tax

The municipal surcharge on the tax will start to be applied in June, despite the opposition's rejection

3 min
Jaume Collboni and Ada Colau at the start of the plenary session

BarcelonaHalfway through Colau's second term, parties have begun to make moves with the 2023 mayoral elections in mind. The plenary session this Friday had two unknowns: whether the former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, would make some reference to his departure - which di not happen - and how parties would readjust to ERC leader Ernest Maragall's announcement they would begin a new stage of greater confrontation with Colau and Collboni's team. In addition, the discrepancies between the coalition partners are becoming increasingly evident. The change in tone of the Republicans has been clear in a proposal that sought the first reprobation against the mayoral team. Specifically, three socialist councillors (Jaume Collboni, Montserrat Ballarín and Xavier Marcé) were criticised over the way they managed the implementation of the municipal surcharge to the tourist tax, originally an ERC proposal but which they and all the opposition now consider should be postponed to give the tourist sector time to get back on its feet. However, Barcelona city council kept the additional 75-cent-a-night tax for visitors starting on June 1st, as it believes it will not change tourists' plans.

ERC has not found allies in its offensive and the proposal of reprobation was discarded with JxCat's abstention - which reproached ERC its lack of "self-criticism" in their role as promoters of the surcharge - and all other parties' opposition. What was approved, with only the opposition from the socialists and En Comú, was JxCat's demand to postpone implementation of the surcharge until next year. Nevertheless, the mayoral team has made it clear it does not intend to change its plans.

"It is not a tax against the sector, it does not affect citizens' pockets, but it is paid by Swedes, Americans, Chinese - and has no effect on bookings," defended the Councillor for Tourism, Xavier Marcé, after ERC's Miquel Puig attacked his team for not having applied any of the mechanisms planned to postpone the surcharge, which was already postponed during the pandemic, and it was agreed that another delay would be discussed depending on the evolution of the economic situation. The municipal government already defended in a committee that it was too late do change the timings now and dismissed the postponement.

The government has already decided to delay the tax increase until October. But in Barcelona there will be no more postponements: the surcharge, which was finally approved at the end of 2020, provides for a progressive increase in the amount to be paid. This year it will be 75 cents and will reach four euros in 2023. This tax will have to be added to the 65 cents and 2.25 euros that are already paid as a basis.

En Comú asks ERC for "calm"

For the councillor for the Presidency, Jordi Martí, from En Comú, there is no doubt that these 75 cents more per night will not alter tourists' plans, while ERC believes it sends a "deplorable message" to the sector, which, they believe, justifies the reprobation of the socialist councillors responsible. Martí, on the other hand, has defended that the only justification he sees for ERC's proposal is the desire to show a change in the opposition, as part of a pre-campaign fever which, he warns, "will be too long" if it starts now. The spokesman of En Comú asked for "calm" from them hitherto main ally outside government. There are two years left until the elections and, according to the municipal government, next year all efforts must be focused on recovery, which he believes has begun with the "productive" meeting that Colau held yesterday with the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès. The two promised each other yesterday "loyalty" in the new stage and showed a spirit of institutional collaboration.

Other groups have also criticised ERC proposal for reprobation. Ciudadanos has accused them of having realised that "they have not been in opposition" and of disassociating themselves now "only for show". Josep Bou, of the PP, has rejected any reprobation and has praised the fair play between councillors. Barcelona pel Canvi believed it was an "incredible exercise of cynicism".