Madrid looks to reduce overlap, emphasize austerity

MADRID -- The Madrid governments look to decrease duplicity in the public sector, as part of austerity measures.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID--If you are a bibliophile in Madrid, you need two library cards and a Metro pass to utilize the antiquated system. This is going to change, as the Madrid regional and municipals governments combine libraries to reduce overlap.

The People's Party's landslide victory last Sunday assured national support for more local austerity measures, particularly in conservatively-led Madrid. After three years of negotiations, it seems that Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and regional president (similar to a governor) Esperanza Aguirre are nearing an agreement to merge the municipal and regional libraries. Madrid is the name of both the capital city with nearly 3.3 million inhabitants and the province of about 6 million people, which surrounds and includes the city.

This is just another of the austerity measures being implemented in Madrid, in an effort to avoid duplication in the public sector. There are 16 regional libraries and 29 municipal libraries that maintain essentially the same catalogs and, some of which, are geographically-placed almost next to each other.

During the day, Madrileño libraries are slower-paced, with seniors reading the news and residents on "paro" (unemployment) using the computers. They start to fill up with caretakers and kids after school, until they are completely filled with university students, studying until the libraries close at 9 p.m.

All libraries are equipped with some computers and an open WiFi service. Books and reference materials vary across the city, particularly dependent on the size of the library. Currently, if you take a book or DVD out of a particular library, you are required to return it to that same library, as the libraries do not have a citywide system, as with other cities. Part of this merger would work to remedy this problem, creating a uniform library catalog across the city. This is important because, in Madrid, a late library book does not cost you a fine, but rather can suspend your card and Internet access for weeks at a time.

Soon, Madrileños will have 45 libraries at their disposal. However, there is no telling how long these negotiations will take. The regional library employs 444 "funcionarios" (essentially permanently-employed civil servants,) while the municipal library, despite having nearly double the number of locations, employs 450 public employees. Negotiations are sure to be drawn out, both because of the nearly 900 employee contracts and wages under inspection, as well as the transferring of property from province to city ownership.

No mention has been made yet if any jobs could be cut in this merger.

Other moves to reduce duplication in Madrid

SInce 2004, the City Council and the Community of Madrid have shared management of the Metro. The City Council has signed an agreement that sells its stake in the Metro to the Community for 140 million euros.

Nursery and pre-schools are publicly-run under the auspices of both Madrid governments. Complex negotiations have begun to consolidate the management of these, in total, 112 centers, which include a payroll burden between 30 and 40 million euros.

Madrid has two emergency services: SAMUR, which serves the streets, and Summa, which serves households. Both operate within the city borders, in the same geographical districts. The two Madrid governments have decided to redistribute this work, placing SAMUR in the city of Madrid and Summa in the rest of the region. If nothing else, this should cut costs on travel expenses and maybe even cut emergency travel time.

Finally, there are almost a hundred senior centers run by the city of Madrid, while a mere 16 are run by the provincial government. Centralizing management in the city would supposedly reduce costs.

What governmental doubling could be reduced in your country, state or city to cut costs?

Photo: Bibliotecas Publicas

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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