From Blanco Consultoría Política we consider it very important to know the vision of those who are at the forefront of public management. Normally, when analyzing the administration of the City Councils it is done from the perspective of the citizen, seeking to know what their demands, unmet needs and others are. However, an accurate evaluation of local public administration requires a global approach, where not only data on the demands and needs of citizens are considered, but also the possibilities and limitations that local government officials have in satisfying them. . The lack of knowledge and understanding of the context in which officials work to meet the growing demands of citizens represents one of the greatest weaknesses of the public system, since it prevents substantial improvements to be made to increase the efficiency of the efforts.
In this article, we present the results of a consultation carried out during the month of February 2020 to mayors at the head of towns with less than six thousand inhabitants in Spain in which they express themselves on issues related to the management of their City Councils. The objective of the consultation is to open the way to a comprehensive approach to public problems and to demonstrate the importance of the mayors' gaze to establish diagnoses and situation tables that will later help to design strategies aimed at improving management.
The results of the consultation reveal that attention to everyday problems consumes between "a lot" and "too much" time in the working day of mayors. Also, practically the all the mayors / a manifest to resort mainly to their own council to solve their multiple problems, which puts I manifest the lack of joint work and assistance between the different municipalities when facing common problems. Due to lack of knowledge of the limitations and difficulties that mayors face in managing their municipalities, they suffer from a lack of understanding on the part of the neighbors regarding their work. In fact, although most define their position audience with words like "commitment", "responsibility", and "service", the lack of empathy and recognition by citizens transforms their work in a load with very little gratification. Regarding depopulation, although a 88.8% of mayors think that the situation in Spain will worsen in the medium term, 80% believe that it is a problem that would have a solution if make changes in public policies. At the end of the work, in the conclusions, we will share the proposals aimed at improving the situation of officials when carrying out their work.
During the month of February of the year 2020, the Consultora Blanco CP made a opinion poll to the mayors of towns under six thousand inhabitants of Spain with the aim of knowing their gaze regarding work they perform, understand the challenges they face and identify characteristics particular of its management. The analysis was focused on municipalities with fewer of six thousand inhabitants because they meet a series of homogeneous variables that allow extrapolating the results and grouping them into a category.
In a first instance, the mayors were consulted about the time it takes them to carry out different tasks that are in their charge, ranging from the study of city problems and the planning of public policies to private attention of neighbors. This point is of utmost importance because time is finite and especially for officials who often carry out another professional activity. Knowing how they distribute time allows us to detect organizational problems and propose solutions.
The 90% of respondents reported that they dedicate too much or too much time in their workday to solving everyday problems, while 55% indicated that direct attention to neighbors takes up a lot of time. Regarding public policy planning, 65% of respondents indicate that they allocate too much and too much time to these issues.
Of the three tasks that take the longest two of them are care for everyday problems and receiving neighbors, which reveals the existence of unsolved structural problems. In many cases, the lack of background solutions can be the cause of a multiplicity of claims by citizens, which the City Council must address, thus dedicating most of the day to bear the management. This could be called "survival management", where you work on a day-to-day basis due to the lack of time and resources to develop an administration strategic. The disadvantage of this type of situation, in addition to limiting the development of the locality, is that it becomes impossible to give resolution to all demands, leading to a decline in the quality of life that residents experience. At the same time, frustration is generated by part of the officials who are misunderstood by their neighbors.
Another negative aspect is the undeveloped potentiality, although it is difficult to quantify. A city that does not advance lags and the existing gap between municipalities with time and sufficient resources to plan and innovate in its policies and those that only survive survive year to year. Therefore, residents of localities Nearby you can notice an increasing asymmetry of the quality of life that experiment in each place.
An interesting fact that emerges from the survey is that, the total of the respondents stated that they are in charge of carrying out tasks that actually correspond to other spheres of government and, furthermore, 30% indicate that they dedicate much and too much time to carrying them out. of these tasks. At this point it would be interesting to identify what these tasks are and study whether they are repeated by area or level of government, and then design a specific solution.
The mayors were also consulted regarding who they go to when they have a problem to solve in their locality. The respondents report that they frequently (65%) or always (35%) solve problems with personnel who are within the city council itself. Being the provincial government in second place and the Autonomous Community in third order.
One fact that we are interested in highlighting is that the search for assistance by another mayor / s is in fourth place, when this should be their natural ally. When facing a particular problem, it is best to receive advice from someone who solved the same problem in a similar context (population size, budget, staff limitations, etc.). In this regard, it would be convenient to create an inter-municipal assistance network, in which each municipality can connect with its peers, that is, those with whom they share a number of homogeneous variables that make them compatible. In this way, when they have to find a solution to some issue, they can resort to that network, finding in it the group of municipalities that have been best able to manage that area and therefore are more capable of advising them.
Given that local authorities have many personnel and resource limitations, it is imperative to exploit all the alternatives that can help them. That there is an articulated network between the Town Halls can provide great savings in time and resources.
When asked about which state agencies are most collaborative with the management, 95% of the mayors showed very positive evaluations towards the provincial government and other municipalities. Surprisingly, 90% consider that the Municipal Federations are moderately collaborative, not very collaborative, or not at all collaborative. This data goes hand in hand with the fact that 75% of those consulted report that they rarely resort to the Municipal Federations to solve their management problems.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
The answers can be conceptualized and ordered by repetition in the following expressions:
Misunderstanding by citizens, lack of empathy
Lack of sources
Bureaucracy and slow and heavy administration
Make professional work compatible with the mayor's job
Treat topics of many different themes
1 That the answer with more repetitions is the misunderstanding on the part of the public, says a lot about the little voice that the officials have. This is very common, given that it is always the citizens who speak and the politicians who listen, but it is also important that the residents learn about the details that the officials face when carrying out their work. Especially in small towns where contact with neighbors is daily, this lack of understanding can be very frustrating for officials. That is why any initiative that contemplates giving a voice to mayors is positive because it improves the link between authorities and neighbors, changing positions of criticism and complaint to collaborative positions that are much more productive.
2 The scarcity of resources is in second place, which is not surprising, and it is here where the link with other municipalities, universities, companies, NGOs, becomes more relevant. When resources are scarce, creativity must supplant them, request help, advice and seek the innovations that are constantly taking place in public policies, allowing for economic solutions to be found.
3 Making a Town Council with a small population have the obligation to comply with administrative requirements equal to large cities that have a large staff to carry it out is not only unfair but also difficult to carry out. This is not a difficult thing to modify based on what exactly are those bureaucratic tasks that complicate management and establishing a differential treatment for municipalities with less than a certain number of employees, greatly alleviating the task. It is desirable that the different levels of the State help each other and not end up being one more problem to solve.
4 This section is decisive, given that we are talking about very little budgetary spending but that makes the difference between being able to have an exclusive dedication or sharing it with other work that is more important because it is the one that the family is based on.
5 Here again the need for advice and collaboration is raised to manage a wide spectrum of topics with a small staff.
Define with a word that means for you to be Mayor / sa
What this word cloud reveals is how little associated is the task of managing with concepts linked to the enjoyment of work. If we think that nobody is obliged to be mayor or that even in many cases they do not even receive an economic remuneration for being it, nor a social valuation, the only explanation for why they still choose to be so is their vocation. It may happen that when that vocation meets the endless limitations and daily demands of the management of a City Council, work becomes a burden. If those who run the administration are not at ease, enthusiastic, passionate about being able to transform reality, they become discouraged and do nothing but continue with the inertia in which the town is located.
What do you think the situation in Spain will be in 10 years with respect to depopulation?
What expectation do you have about depopulation in Spain: does it have a solution or is it irreversible?
The results of these two questions are illuminating when it comes to understanding what those who are in charge of the City Councils think, there are as many who consider that the problem of depopulation continues its negative trend, as those who believe that it has a solution. This brings us to the next question.
What do you think is / are the reasons why the various proposals to solve the problem of depopulation in Spain fail?
Much analysis and little specification of policies
Lack of infrastructure
Little flexibility, lack of simplicity in procedures
Ignorance of the reality of the peoples
Notion of people associated with negative concepts (abandonment, mediocrity)
These were the more expressed concepts, which allow to have a global view on the perspective that officials have on the subject. Beyond that each locality has its particularity and therefore cannot be extrapolated linear.
Of the responses obtained, the most striking is the one regarding the lack of knowledge on the subject that those who design policies have to solve the problem. This leads us to reflect on the need for a more active role for mayors when thinking and proposing the measures to be taken. It would be interesting to find communication channels that make it possible to have a greater presence of those who inhabit and manage the territory in collaboration with all the actors currently involved in seeking to reverse the depopulation. It is evident that they do not feel heard or fully understood, reversing this situation is not only simple but very important.
The Smaller town councils in Spain face the main challenge that any City Council can face and is its own subsistence. Paradoxically, these municipalities are the ones with the fewest management tools they have to work, this is important because having fewer staff should use more management tools, in less fighting.
Caught up in a maze
Crecientes demandas sociales se enfrentan con escaso presupuesto, lo que deviene en insuficiencia de infraestructuras y multiplicidad de consultas sobre el primer nivel de Gobierno. En los alcaldes/as genera problemas cotidianos sin solución, lo que los lleva a invertir la mayor parte de su tiempo a enfrentar la coyuntura, pero al no poder dar soluciones integrales las problemáticas diarias se acumulan y por ende la calidad de vida se deteriora, a la vez que la frustración de los gobernantes aumenta. Además, enfrentan desafíos de discusión mundial como es el impacto de la tecnología en el mercado laboral y la consecuente migración a grandes ciudades. Lo que se manifiesta es que, debe profesionalizarse la gestión con herramientas que permitan economizar esfuerzos y tener impacto directo en la comunidad. En definitiva, todos estos desafíos son enfrentados por escaso personal y en ocasiones funcionarios sin remuneración, lo que significa poco tiempo dado que deben tener otro trabajo.
Create an inter municipal network
Group the Similar municipalities, determining the similarity based on a number of homogeneous variables such as: quantity of population, size of the territory, budget, geographic location, economic activities, infrastructure, problems, etc. Our proposal is that each City Council publish within that network its situation regarding the different variables of the town, such as safety, health, transportation, garbage, employment, education, environment, etc.
Thus when a municipality faces a problem instead of solving it for its account can go to that digital network and find within the municipalities of your group who could best manage this area and request advice.
Sort out disadvantaged areas
It is not logical that places with such different situations have the same treatment. Being able to create a classifier of disadvantaged areas can be a way for them to stop being so. In this way, the Town Halls that meet a series of characteristics, for example: constant population loss in the last five years, poor connection with other cities, lack of highly complex health services, lack of access to higher education, infrastructure deficiencies and services, etc., can request differentiated treatment, such as: simplification of administrative procedures, tax reduction for their residents, greater budget support, etc.
Treating everyone equally means unfair treatment. It is unfair for a town dweller to pay the same taxes as a large city dweller since the two do not receive the same services. Those who reside in a large city have easy access to highly complex healthcare, museums, higher education, connection with other cities, public services, etc. This envisions a lack of incentives to stay or move to the towns, which means an existence of incentives to leave the towns or not to consider them as future places of residence.
Association positive of the towns
The constant association of peoples with abandonment, depopulation and backwardness only helps make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Begin to Present the peoples as a place of opportunities, highlighting their virtues and its positive differences with large cities is essential not to discourage potential residents. Also, strategically attend congresses to highlight the virtues of the people for the establishment of certain knowledge industries can be an alternative empowerment, as well as promoting its closeness to the environment and Peace of mind to motivate future residents.
Due to the great changes in labor dynamics and the great advancement in technology, in the last decade the number of people who carry out their work at a distance, known as “digital nomads”, has increased. These workers have the possibility of living or staying for periods of different lengths in different cities. This workforce represents a vitally important sector in places where there is no generation of employment.
The country with the largest number of statistics on this sector of the economy, and which can be taken as representative of developed countries, is the United States. According to 2014 Freelancers Union data, 30% of North American workers work remotely and it is projected that by 2035 these workers will be 50% of the labor market.
Blanco Political Consulting is registered in the Register of Opinion Polls and Surveys Companies, belonging to the National Electoral Chamber and works in strict compliance with the international codes that regulate the activity, formulated by ESOMAR, to which SAIMO (Argentine Society of Market Researchers and Opinion). This includes protocols for confidentiality, anonymity and good practices.
Date of completion: February 2020
Consulted: Mayors of localities with less than six thousand inhabitants in Spain.
Modality: Structured questionnaire with closed questions and open questions.
Sistema de consulta: CAWI (Computer-Assisted Web Interviewing).