Social spending is the biggest casualty of Spain’s latest raft of austerity measures, announced in the budget.
As many as 43 new laws to reform the economy will be pushed through in the next six months in an effort to find €20 billion of savings, including measures to limit early retirement.
Spain’s finance minister Luis de Guindos confirmed the gap between legal and actual retirement ages will be reduced as the pension system adapts to longer life-spans.
The government will also take €3 billion from the pension reserve, with 60% of the savings expected to come from spending cuts.
Spending at government ministries is to be slashed by 12.2% in order to save €4.3 billion, while public sector wages will be frozen for a third year.
Debt servicing costs will be €38.6 billion in 2013, while tax increases will include a 20% gambling tariff.
De Guindos insists the budget measures exceed EU expectations, and added that Spain will continue to analyse the conditions of the ECB bond buying programme before making a decision on a bailout request.
A British couple are warning other expats about hidden bank charges after Barclays charged them nearly €200 to send a cheque to England.
Sue and Les Holland, from Estepona, made a cheque out in euros to a friend for €1,761.43.
But when they received their bank statement the couple, who have since closed their account, were shocked to discover they had been charged an additional €176.45.
“We queried this and they told us the English bank had returned our cheque to Barclays in Estepona, via a ‘gestion de cobro’, to ensure there was sufficient money in our account,” said Sue, from Lancashire.
“We want to know why this charge was made without any warning.
“They insisted it was just normal procedure. But the charges are extortionate. It is disgraceful.”
When the Olive Press contacted Barclays a spokeswoman informed us it was a standard charge.
“We are unable to comment on this specific case without all the information but we will look into it.
“In general the amount depends on the kind of account you have and the kind of cheque it is.
“There are a lot of ways to send money to another country, this process is more secure and for that
reason more expensive.”
A spate of stories in the British press suggesting a third of expats are desperate to move home appear to be wide of the mark.
A number of newspapers and an ITN documentary have claimed over the last week that hundreds of thousands are throwing in the towel, tired of mounting financial difficulties.
While bank repossessions are up and some have the feeling of being trapped by an inability to sell homes, it is easy to understand why some may want to jump ship.
What’s more, it is statistically true that last year the number of immigrants leaving Spain outnumbered those arriving for the first time in a decade.
But, according to the National Institute for Statistics, the majority leaving were Latin American and Eastern European.
And many locals are far from convinced that there is such a British exodus.
Aside from celebrated Driving Over Lemons writer Chris Stewart (see article here), in a straw poll of calls made last night to expats on the Costa del Sol, nobody could believe that figure.
“I would be amazed if it is even near 10 per cent,” said Paul O’Connell, who has lived in Mijas for over a decade.
“I am talking to loads of people every day and practically no-one says they are desperate to go.”
Estepona-based Keith Lippingwell confirmed that while some people he knew had gone back, a similar number had moved over.
Estate agent Adam Neale, from Terra Meridiana, meanwhile, insisted that it is ‘absolute rubbish’ and the figure was probably ‘less than five per cent’.
Marketing executive Charles Bamber, based in Torre del Mar, agreed: “It’s a massive exaggeration. The majority of people I know are insisting on making it work and have no intentions of going back.”
The figures are backed up coincidentally by Paul Rodwell, the British Consul in Alicante, who told the Observer earlier this year: “There is no statistical evidence of people returning home. The vast majority of them are enjoying life. People do really pursue the dream and it’s admirable that they have that get up and go.”
Expat Jo Morrison exemplifies the case. Despite falling on hard times after a proposed gym business in Nerja failed when the crisis hit in 2008, she said: “Sometimes we’ve gone without food and I still can’t believe that I don’t have my house or any savings any more,” says the 49-year-old, who now works as a cleaner and rents a one-bedroom house in Frigiliana.
“But Spain is my home now. I’d rather sleep on the beach than go back to the UK.”