When we arrived in Frigiliana eight years ago to take up permanent residence we had a particular problem to deal with. I don't remember what it was, and that isn't important. When we sought advice we were told "Speak to Kevin". So we did and he told us which documents we would need, where to get them, where to take them and roughly how much it would cost us. We did as he said and sure enough by the end of our third visit to whatever office everything was sorted. To digress, it is an accepted fact of Spanish bureaucracy that nothing is ever resolved in fewer than three attempts, so that counted as a success.
Back in 2008 Kevin worked a couple of days a week in the town hall, but over the succeeding years that rapidly expanded to what was effectively a full time job; four mornings a week's he was at his desk, and on a Friday he visited people who had problems but could not get to the town hall. It would be tempting to say that Kevin worked for the town hall, but that would not quite be accurate. Certainly he was paid by the town hall, but actually he worked for the expatriate residents of Frigiliana, especially those with little Spanish.
But why am I using the past tense? Well, Kevin was appointed to do this work by the party then in control of the council, the Partido Andalucista. He was employed on the basis of what is known as a cargo de confianza, a term for which there is no English equivalent. Basically, he was paid using funds provided by central government to help local authorities provide the necessary services. However, because this is an appointment by the ruling party, it expires as soon as a local election campaign begins. Then the post can be renewed once the new administration takes office - if the new administration wishes.
A potential problem first arose after the elections of 2011 when Partido Andalucista lost overall control and had to look for a coalition partner, the obvious candidate being the Partido Popular which had won two seats which would give the two parties six seats against the third party's five. A sticking point emerged; PP were opposed to the reappointment of Kevin and tried to block it. Eventually though, they conceded, a PA/PP coalition took up office and Kevin returned to work. But last year's election changed the dynamic; PP finished up with 4 seats against PA's three, and so they had the upper hand. They refused point blank to contemplate employing Kevin. PA were equally adamant that there would be no pact which did not include Kevin returning to his job. Negotiations went right down to the wire but in the end PP agreed to the demand - until their man had been safely sworn in as mayor, at which point they began introducing one condition after another, conditions which they knew PA would not accept, and so virtually twelve months later it is clear that they will not man a Foreigners' Desk at the town hall.
The expatriate community, especially the British, are outraged and feel that they have been very badly let down, and that despite accounting for a third or more of the population of the village, they are of no concern or interest to the ruling party. There was a flurry of excitement a couple of months ago when news went around the village, "Kevin's back in the town hall!" Alas, it proved to be a false dawn; he has a three month contract to update the electoral register, that's all. Of, course being Kevin, if anyone comes in with a problem, as I did yesterday, he sets about solving it.
So expatriate discontent continues, not just that there is no one in the town hall to fill the gap left by Kevin's departure, but also because we don't just value him for what he was able to do for us. We love him for the commitment he has shown over the past eight years to the foreign residents of Frigiliana and we are appalled at the shabby way he has been treated.