News Roundup October

Healthcare for expatriates scheme approved

RESIDENTS in the Comunidad Valenciana who do not qualify for free healthcare on the State are now able to pay a monthly fee to allow them to use public hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.

This applies to those aged under 65 who are neither employed nor self-employed, meaning they are not paying into the Social Security system.

Women aged between 60 and 65 who are already in receipt of a UK state pension are exempt from this scheme and already entitled to free healthcare, as are their partners if they have been registered with the pension office in Newcastle as dependents.

Until last summer, all UK residents in Spain were entitled to free medical care irrespective of their work or pension status, and held SIP cards allowing them to use the service.

They now have from November 1 to November 21 to join the scheme, and are not required to present any documentation.

Their SIP cards will normally feature the word ‘demand’.

Anyone who is not already registered with a doctor and holding a SIP card must also register within this period, but they will be expected to provide a copy of their padrón certificate, residence certificate, and photographic identification.

Those affected by the scheme will shortly receive a letter from the Valencian health authorities, but further questions can be asked by calling 900 662 000 free of charge.

You can also check the website
It was reported last week that quarterly payments in the region of 300 euros – equating to around 100 euros a month – would be the approximate cost.
Unlike private health insurance, pre-existing medical conditions are not excluded.


Jeremy Paxman’s younger brother to be Spain’s Ambassador

BBC reporter Jeremy Paxman’s little brother is to become Spain’s Ambassador.

Giles Paxman, who studied at Malvern College and New College, Oxford, is at present the UK Ambassador in Mexico as well as having held other diplomatic posts in Italy, Belgium and France.

Additionally, Paxman is a Lieutenant in the Royal Victorian Order.

His predecessor in Spain, Denise Holt, has recently announced that she will be giving up work in the diplomatic service.


A branch in Alicante? What a great Ikea, says mayoress

GREAT news for flat-packed furniture fans: Ikea has proposed to open a new branch in Alicante.

Not only that, but the store will be in the middle of one of the largest shopping centres on the continent, reveal the directors of the multinational furniture chain.

More than treble the size of Alicante’s biggest retail complexes, the new centre – if the plans are approved – will include a hypermarket and an Ikea store occupying approximately half of it.

Already, plans are afoot to open a branch in Alfafar (Valencia), meaning residents in the Comunidad Valenciana will no longer have to travel to Murcia or Madrid to buy their favourite furnishings.

At present, although the city’s mayoress, Sonia Castedo, has said she is keen for the centre to be built, nothing has been agreed and Ikea bosses have merely met with local authorities to present their plans.

But they will face opposition from local furniture retailers, who fear Ikea will cause them to lose trade and, ultimately, their jobs.

The city council has said it will carry out a detailed study of the likely impact of the Swedish furniture store’s opening in the city on local businesses.


Insurance agent ‘made false claim on his policy’

AN insurance salesman who hoped to make a quick buck by faking a burglary at his home is likely to face jail instead.

National Police reported this week that a 44-year-old man made a claim on his home contents policy, which he held with the company in Alicante he worked for.

The accused is said to have told them he had been burgled and goods valued at around 1,520 euros taken.

Amongst these were two computers, a laptop, a mobile telephone and over 900 euros in cash.

All of these belonged to the business, although it is not clear whether the suspect had a financial interest in them.

If this was not the case, his claim would have been rejected and the company would have been obliged to claim from their own policy.

Most household insurance excludes cover for business goods and limits cover for cash to a nominal sum, usually around 100 euros.

Invented or falsely inflated insurance claims are treated by the law in the same manner as all other offences of fraud, carrying fines and prison sentences depending upon the severity of the crime.

Thousands of taxpayers ask for more flexible terms

HOMEOWNERS all along the Costa Blanca who are unable to meet their IBI taxes this year have asked the SUMA office to give them a stay of grace.

Others have requested to be able to pay their duties in instalments.

SUMA office workers in the province of Alicante reveal that a whopping 19,900 taxpayers have applied for more flexible payment terms.

All IBI payments – an annual tax levied on property- and land-owners, based on the value of their asset – were due in by last Friday for contributors in the Alicante province.

The only exceptions were Elche, Jávea and Alicante city.

But at an average of 400 euros per household, thousands of residents are unable to find the money up front.

SUMA staff say they launched the deferred and staggered payment scheme two years ago, and they used to request a considerable amount of paperwork, which included bank statements.

But given the sheer number of recession-struck homeowners asking for help, they have relaxed these requirements somewhat this year.

 ‘Flu jab number rocket

PANDEMIC panic has seen the number of patients seeking a ‘flu jab this winter shoot up by a third on last year’s figures.

Medics in the region began their winter 2009 campaign of annual vaccinations against the common strain of influenza last week.

They say in the first two days alone, almost 85,000 people were given the injection at health centres throughout the Comunidad Valenciana.

It is thought that concerns about swine ‘flu have led those who have not bothered with the vaccination in the past to become more cautious.

But the annual jab for common seasonal ‘flu does not protect the patient against the AH1N1 virus, for which a further injection is required.

Health centres will start to administer these in November.

In the meantime, medical staff are concerned that they will be run off their feet this winter with one-fifth predicted to be off sick with swine ‘flu.

Those working in casualty are the most at risk.

They have asked the central government’s health authorities to come up with workable contingency plans to be put in place if these predictions prove to be true.

Sat nav danger when drivers distracted, warns DGT

WATCHING your sat nav instead of where you are going can have fatal results, according to a study carried out by Línea Directa insurance and the Road Safety Institute at Valencia University.

Researchers found that people who relied heavily on satellite navigation – or GPS – systems missed 50 per cent of what was going on around them, including other drivers’ actions, road signs and other signals.

Their speed also dropped by 15 per cent and the distance between the motorist in question and the vehicle in front widened by 80 metres.

This encourages reckless and impatient drivers behind to overtake and squeeze into the gap, potentially causing a crash.

The sudden drop in speed can also lead to rear shunts if the car behind is unable to slow down quickly enough.

Reaction times were also said to be slower, and many motorists claimed they found their GPS systems distracting, particularly when these gave out the wrong information or provided directions too late.

Drivers on wide, straight roads are the most at risk since, ironically, they feel safer than on narrower, windy roads and confident enough to take their hands off the steering wheel.

The Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) is considering making it an offence to tune in, adjust or manipulate a GPS whilst driving.

They will treat it in the same manner as motorists using mobile phones at the wheel, and it could cost the driver three licence points.

Madrid loses bid to be venue for 2016 Olympics

MADRID has lost out to Río de Janeiro in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

The decision was made by the Olympic committee in Copenhagen on Friday.

Brazil’s president is said to have ‘wept with joy’ when the announcement was made, since this will be the first time that a South American city will have hosted the games.

Now, the only part of the world that has never held the Olympic games is Africa.

Those present said it appeared that the committee wanted to explore pastures new.

Although Madrid came second after Chicago and Tokyo, the only other candidates, Río won by a massive margin with 66 per cent of the votes, compared to Madrid’s 32.

Spain’s capital also lost out to London when it made a bid to host the 2012 Olympic games.

This time round, they put up a fight with a Facebook site that attracted nearly half a million fans, and a human mosaic of the Olympic symbol in the Plaza de Cibeles.

‘Police chief in pants’ forced to pay officer three months’ salary

A POLICEMAN who was suspended for three months for talking to his semi-clad boss has been awarded his unpaid salary by the court.

The officer, a member of the Local Police force in Xirivella (Valencia) entered the changing room at the start of his night shift to dump his belongings before turning to the chief of police to ask him a question connected with his work.

At the time, his boss claimed he was changing out of his uniform and wearing only his pants. As a result, he started disciplinary action against the officer for ‘serious lack of respect towards a superior’. This led to the officer being suspended without pay.

Although the policeman said his superior was in fact tying his shoelaces at the time – suggesting he must have been wearing his trousers – the judge stated that there was nothing to say speaking to the boss in the changing rooms was forbidden.

The officer also claimed that his boss insulted him and spoke rudely to him during their conversation in the locker room. To this end, the judge stated that the chief of police had attempted to draw attention to himself by making the incident appear far more serious and embarrassing, and the officer’s behaviour appear more scandalous than it had been in reality. She awarded the policeman 3,855 euros, representing the salary he had been deprived of whilst suspended.

Now, the officer, who has to face the same police chief at work every day, said he would leave the force if he could find another job.

He says the incident was just a set-up on the part of his superior to degrade him in front of his colleagues.

Oracle wants America’s Cup to be in Valencia

BMW Oracle has applied to a New York court for the 33rd America’s Cup to be held in Valencia instead of the United Arab Emirates. The city of Ras al-Khaima was chosen by Swiss team Alinghi, but their rivals, Oracle, say the rules do not allow them to pick the venue. Additionally, the USA team says the Middle Eastern venue has insufficient infrastructure and is ‘not a safe area’, since it is close to the border with Iran and on disputed territory. Valencia was originally due to host the 33rd America’s Cup, a tie-breaker between BMW Oracle – challenger of record – and Alinghi, current holders of the cup.

But organisers changed their plans, largely due to the fact that Valencia’s weather and sailing conditions would not be suitable for the competition, since it would be held during the colder months of the year.

First engine-powered plane to take off lands in Cullera – a hundred years on

A REPLICA of the first-ever engine-powered plane to take off has been returned to Cullera, a hundred years after it left the ground. The bi-plane, known more commonly as the Volaoret, was built by Cullera-born Juan Olivert Serra and first took off on September 5, 1909. He was just 21 at the time, a graduate in industrial engineering, and built the craft with the help of his former professor, Gaspar Brunet.

Juan Olivert then flew it for 50 metres in the Artillery Regiment in Paterna, in front of 4,000 people. Last month, a commemoration of the Volaoret’s centenary was held in the same place, and three engineers built a replica of the craft with galvanised steel.

It has now been installed permanently in the town-centre San Antonio park.

This adds another exciting tourist attraction to Cullera, already lauded for its excellent beaches, lighthouse, and water park Aquopolis.

Unemployment figures rocket in the region

DOOM and gloom on the employment front shows no sign of clearing with a further 10,000 people having signed on the dole in the Comunidad Valenciana in September alone.

Unemployment figures now stand at nearly 460,000 in the region, having risen by 2.21 per cent – consistent with the national average – since the end of summer.

In fact, in just one year, 164,711 people in the Comunidad have signed on, meaning an annual increase of a whopping 55,85 per cent – 14 per cent above the average for Spain.

Figures appeared to improve at the beginning of summer, with a downward trend seen in jobseeker numbers, but this was largely due to the increase in seasonal work brought by peak tourist months. The region also saw a sharp decline in the number of people registered as self-employed, meaning that the coffers are being bled dry by those unable to find work, and there are insufficient numbers of people in jobs to fund these benefits.

Four in five people who became unemployed in September formed part of the service sector. At present, Spain’s jobless figures stand at 3.7 million, the worst since the early 1990s.


Calpe refused funding for AP-7 motorway exit

CALPE is not going to get its long-clamoured-for motorway exit, despite being one of the Costa Blanca’s most popular holiday towns.

Ximo Tur, the town’s mayor, condemned the Spanish government’s refusal to finance Calpe’s exit from the AP-7 and the fact that the area is largely cut off.

Tur says access to Calpe by road or public transport has always been a major problem, and one that needs to be resolved ‘now that we are in the 21st century’.

The central government will only agree to a bypass between Altea and Benissa, running parallel with the N-332, with an exit for Calpe.

But the mayor says this will not only cost more to build than a sliproad from the AP-7, but will also be difficult to construct due to the rugged landscape around the town.

Plans for the bypass are now available from the Oficina de Atención al Ciudadano, the customer-facing part of the town hall.

Earthquake rocks Oliva and Gandia

OLIVA and Gandia residents felt the earth move last Tuesday when a tremor measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale rocked La Safor.

It could be felt all the way from Pego to Cullera, and even in the Vall d’Albaida.

Most people said the earthquake, which happened at around 22.45hrs and lasted just a few seconds, did not cause any damage.

They said they felt ‘as though someone were pushing them over’.

Its epicentre was just off Xeraco beach, creating a mini-tsunami.

Luckily, the fairly frequent earthquakes in the Comunidad Valenciana rarely exceed this magnitude and any damage is very minimal.

Jail for lovesick firestarter

THE young man who caused a forest fire that wiped out most of the Valldigna in March 2006 has been jailed for 18 months.

Then aged 22, the devastated youngster from Simat de la Valldigna was burning letters from his ex-girlfriend, which he then threw into a wheelie-bin before being picked up by a friend in his car.

The friend then noticed that the bin was on fire, and the flames rapidly spread, leading to hundreds of residents being evacuated and 1,900 hectares of countryside being wiped out.

He has also been fined 1.2 million euros, representing the costs to the state of dealing with the damage.

Castellón news

Peñíscola seeks UNESCO recognition

PEÑÍSCOLA hopes for its old town to become a UNESCO heritage site in order to attract more tourists.

Already popular with holidaymakers seeking sun, sea and sand, Peñíscola is also justly proud of its Mediaeval fortress, which sits atop a hill overlooking the town.

The castle in Ibiza, of a similar structure, has achieved the distinction of one of the Mediterranean’s most exemplary fortresses, and Peñíscola hopes to follow in its footsteps.

If the town achieves its goal, the fortress – built on top of an old Arab castle at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries – will join some of Spain’s most world-renowned monuments.

These include the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the aqueduct in Segovia, the El Escorial royal palace just outside Madrid, Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona and his restaurant in Comillas (Cantabria), the mosque of Córdoba and the cave paintings along the Mediterranean coast.

‘Tourist menus’ in Vall d’Uixò restaurants

RESTAURANTS in the Vall d’Uixò are designing ‘tourist menus’ in a bid to attract visitors.

These will include various local dishes, such as paella, empedrao and caldereta, with great value-for-money prices.

La Vall d’Uixò is already popular with travellers, since 150,000 people per year go to the town to see its famous caves.

They catch a miniature ‘tourist train’ from the town centre to the caves, and are given guided tours by boat.

Local authorities are also organising other guided tours in the town’s two attractive churches.

Additionally, they are working on tours of the local pottery and shoe-making industry so that visitors can gain a real flavour of the area.
Funds for Valencia-Castellón train slashed by central government
A MAINLINE train from Valencia to Castellón due to be built next June has only been given one-thirtieth of the funds promised by the central government.
MP for the Comunidad Valenciana, Ricardo Peralta, says he is furious that only 22 million euros have been handed over to build the track.
Peralta says that the central government’s minister for public works, José Blanco, promised a total of 640 million euros split between the end of this year and the beginning of next during his visit to Valencia in September.
The MP says he feels the central government is ‘punishing’ the region by supplying insufficient funds for its planned new infrastructure.
According to Peralta, the third lane of the A-3, the Valencia-Madrid motorway, will cost 91 million euros, which is the total sum given to the regional government last year to spend on roadworks throughout the three provinces.

Crime rate falls in Castellón province

CRIME on the Costa del Azahar has dropped by ten per cent in the last year, reveal National Police.
The force also says the number of arrests of people belonging to organised crime gangs has increased, with 200 suspects behind bars awaiting trial.
This year, police in the province have carried out 1,900 traffic controls, checked 20,500 vehicles, seized hauls of drugs on 1,700 occasions, identified 100,000 people and confiscated more than 500 firearms.
The Judicial Police have also broken up 19 drug-smuggling and fraud rackets.
MP for the Castellón province, Antonio Lorenzo, made these announcements as the National Police celebrated the festival of their patron saints, Los Santos Ángeles Custodios (Custodian Angels).
He said 2009 had been a good year for the National Police, with headquarters fully-staffed, an increase in arrests and a fall in crime numbers.

Nine golden weddings celebrated in Alcalà de Xivert

ALCALÀ de Xivert celebrated nine golden weddings of couples in the town at the end of September.
A tribute act to the couples who tied the knot on September 27, 1959 was held in the town hall exactly 50 years later to the date.
The husbands were given the town hall insignia, and the wives were presented with bridal bouquets.

Delivery man killed in massive factory explosion

A TRANSPORT worker was killed and dismembered by a huge explosion in a Paterna industrial estate last week.

Ricardo Tomillo had been subcontracted to deliver a lorryload of glycerine to Germany by a firm from the country located on the L’Andana factory park.

Methanol combining with the open air, when the victim opened the tank, caused a blast that hurled him 50 metres and knocked over workers in the next plant.

Police are searching for various parts of Tomillo’s body, which was pulled to pieces by the force of the explosion.

Viviar Bicarbonat, who had rented the tank to the German firm, is under investigation by health and safety inspectors.


Castle stairway ‘built on green belt land without permission’

SAX town council has come under fire for building a stairway to its castle on green belt land without regional government permission.

Opposition councillors from the PP are calling for mayoress Ana Barceló (PSOE) to resign.

They believe she was fully aware that building on the land in question was illegal and claim that she tried to hide the penalty notice received from the ministry for the environment.

For the stairway to the castle to be built on the mountainside, an environmental impact study and report would have to be carried out by the regional government and the results prove favourable to the construction.

But this was not applied for, meaning the council has been ordered to down tools and pay a fine.

They will also have to pay the costs of the developers’ work to date, even though it cannot be finished.

A PP spokesman claimed Ana Barceló suspended the works days before the fine notice was received, and suggested she was trying to ‘clean up her image in front of the public’.

Mayor’s lottery joke ‘in poor taste’

XÀTIVA mayor’s mickey-taking of one of his fellow politicians caused ripples of disapproval in a council meeting on Friday.

Alfonso Rus, president of Valencia provincial council and mayor of Xàtiva, made a joke about his counterpart in the Diputación de Castellón that did not please the opposition.

He was asked by socialist spokesman Roger Cerdà about where certain public funds would come from.

Rus replied that it was ‘a game of chance, like the Bonoloto’, comparing it to one of Spain’s most popular national lotteries.

Referring to president of Castellón provincial council, Carlos Fabra, Cerdà commented that Rus was ‘the Fabra of the Valencia province’.

To this, Rus joked: “That’s what I’d like, to be just like Fabra.”

Socialist members complained that the joke was in poor taste, but members of the reigning PP found it difficult to hide their mirth.

Car crash leaves Llíria residents powerless

TWO urbanisations in Llíria were left without electricity for a whole day after a car crashed into an electric post.

Residents have complained that these posts are in the middle of the street and no warning is given of their presence.

A young driver crashed into a post on the Xelardo urbanisation on Thursday, causing a powercut which also affected the Xelvaneta development.

The town council says it has put up signs warning of these posts on numerous occasions, but that vandals have frequently taken them down.

No expense spared to make Sports City the best in the region

XÀTIVA town council has announced it will spend ‘however much it takes’ to make sure their sports centre is the best of the lot.

Local authorities decided the sky was the limit this week when they voted to up the budget for the leisure centre to 9.5 million euros.

Mayor Alfonso Rus says he wants it to be the best sports centre in the Comunidad Valenciana.

In response to clamouring from the opposition, he has agreed to widen the athletics track.

The Ciutat de l’Esport – Sports City – is expected to be open to the public by the end of next year.

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