Rumours around Ronda suggest the mayor and council may be considering creating a foreigners office along the lines of those already operating in Estepona, Marbella or Mijas, but with an obvious focus on providing specific help for new residents to integrate rather than just offer translation or form filling services.
Several months ago Ronda Today spoke to Rafael Lara, councillor for Economics in Ronda about the number of foreign nationals resident in the Serranía, and he confided that the council is aware of around 8-14,000 foreigners permanently resident here based on statistics of amount of waste generated, sewage that needs to be treated, and power consumption.
Whilst the council does not know the exact whereabouts of the majority of foreign residents, the city finances are under enormous pressure because central government funding only applies to residents declared on the padron (empadronamiento), and with as many as 14,000 people unofficially resident in the district but not declared, that leaves a shortfall of over 2.5 million Euros.
The strategy behind creating a dedicated foreigners office in Ronda would be to offer a valuable service to a significant percentage of the population who are currently marginalised, and at the same time encourage anyone approaching the office to register, a process that is free and not in any way related to taxation.
Ronda Today understands that the mayor and council are keen to provide cultural activities, library services, and Spanish language classes to foreign residents, but are not able to at present because this community is not represented in council or by a foreign residents action committee.
What then do we as foreign residents in Ronda need? Well, aside from guidance on how to complete council paperwork or have documents translated, we also need to feel that we are part of the life of the city, and not just a cash cow to be ignored so long as we contribute to the local economy.
However, we are not likely to get the support of the council as long as so many of us refuse to integrate and register to vote in local elections. A foreign residents office could be just the start of truly bringing the two major communities of Ronda, the local Rondeños and other EU nationals, together into a single community.
To that end Ronda Today is willing to represent the foreigners of Ronda and make our case for more services of interest to a wider audience. Here are some examples of things we’ve heard foreigners ask for, but what would you like the Ronda foreigners office to do?
1. Local government forms such as the empadronamiento, planning consents, local regulations etc to be available in English, and if possible German and Dutch.
2. More affordable, and structured Spanish classes, perhaps offered by the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas with certification at the end of each year.
3. Original language cinema of latest blockbuster films
4. International cultural activities such as popular music and theatre
5. Information on consumer rights, and a way to complain about unfair pricing
6. Introduction service for foreigners wanting to meet Spaniards for intercambios
Please comment, or if you’d prefer, email email@example.com, and we’ll make sure your point of view is anonymously presented to the mayor so that your voice is heard. Also, and this is very important, if your friends or neighbours don’t read Ronda Today, please tell them about our request and ask them to send a comment.