More than 2,500 health workers took to the streets of Barcelona yesterday for a second demonstration about planned budget cuts (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The protests started from in front of various Barcelona hospitals, including Hospital Clínic, Vall d'Hebron and Hospital del Mar, as well as some in the metropolitan area, and at some points the demonstration brought traffic to a standstill, causing various kilometres of tailbacks. The employees were protesting against the Generalitat's proposed reduction of the health budget by 10 percent, and the action, which lasted close to 14 hours, was organised by various trade unions including CGT and CATAC-CTS. More than 700 workers from the Bellvitge managed to cut both lanes of the Gran Via for 20 minutes, causing more than four kilometres of jams. The protesters said that they were trying to draw attention to the serious state in which the hospital finds itself as a result of the cuts, which has caused the closure of a second emergency operating theatre. In a related news item, the Hospital Clínic is closing down its emergency service in the Carrer Valencia at night, as a result of the budget cuts that it's facing, according to hospital sources. The centre was opened 20 years ago to deal with the high number of patients being dealt with in the main hospital; it will now close each evening at 10.30. On average, the emergency service has been dealing with almost 15,000 patients each year—from now on, about 5,000 of these patients will have to go to the Clínic's centre in Villarroel, while the rest will be divided between the CAP in Mansó and Hospital Plató.
The Spanish government has doubled the amount of tax relief available to homeowners who carry out renovations to their property as a way of supporting the construction industry (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The government is hoping that, in this way, new jobs will be created and that such works will be carried out legally, rather than under the table, with all corresponding taxes being paid. The construction industry is one that has seen the highest rates of unemployment since the start of the financial crisis in Spain; according to trade unions, one in four people currently looking for work is related to the construction industry. As such, the Spanish cabinet yesterday approved the rate of tax relief go up from 10 percent to 20 percent in income tax (IRPF) declarations. The proposal to make this change was actually raised more than a year ago, but now the idea is to increase the number of tax-payers who can take advantage of it. Previously the law allowed 10 percent of the cost of domestic renovation works to be discounted from the amount of taxable income up to a maximum of €4,000; anyone with an annual income of less than €33,007.20 can claim 100 percent of the deduction, and the amount that can be claimed is gradually reduced according to income, and is not available for anyone who earns over €53,007.20.
More than 400,000 vehicles are expected to leave Barcelona between today and tomorrow as families head out of the city to enjoy the Easter break (read article in Catalan here, Avui).This is the second phase of the 'operació sortida de Setmana Santa', with the first one taking place last weekend. The official start time for the mass exodus is today at 3pm with most people expected to have got away by the same time tomorrow. The AP-7 motorway is expected to have the heaviest traffic heading both towards the Costa Brava and the Costa Daurada, while some roads towards the Pyrenees and Andorra could also see congestion. The director of the Servei Català de Trànsit, Joan Aregio, has said that because Easter falls so late this year, they expect to see an increase in the number of people taking advantage of the holiday weekend, with a rise of between two and three percent compared to last year. Two thousand agents of the Mossos will be patrolling the roads with various drug, alcohol, seat-belt, helmet and speed controls.