The wastepaper bins and recycling containers are filled to overflowing. Discarded furniture lies broken on the streets. There have been a significant number of complaints recently about the cleanliness of the centre of Madrid. The cutbacks in cleaning services provoked by the financial problems of the city's administration are starting to show, and things look set to get worse.
Still, there is always someone to distract attention from the real cause of the problem. Cleaning services in Madrid come under the expert control of Ana Botella, whose husband is currently busy defending the Spanish borders against the Moroccan threat. Botella, renowned for her political sensitivity, last week put the blame for the cleaning problems on the homeless people who bed down on the streets of the centre. We're still only one Gallardón away from having her in charge of the city.
There is, however, a more fundamental cause. It turns out that the companies responsible for the cleaning services have not been paid by the administration since September last year. The bill due is now approaching €300 million, and the companies concerned are threatening to stop paying their workers. The result of that will almost certainly be a strike, and an attempt by the PP to blame the unions for the uncollected rubbish that will then pile up.
The odd thing is that rubbish collection in Madrid is supposed to be financed by a specific tax levied for that purpose, and which of course is still being collected. So if that money is not being used to pay the contractors for keeping the city clean, then where has it gone? It would be wrong to think that Madrid is unable to pay for anything. The Calle Serrano, Madrid's most pijo shopping street, has recently been reformed and money was found for an expensive inauguration yesterday. With elections on the horizon we can expect similar events in the next few months. The homeless, of course, will not be invited.