WHEN NEWS broke on Wednesday that the vice-premier of the Madrid region was claiming benefits to help pay for his heating bills, despite earning nearly €105,000 a year, leftist parties were clamouring for him to quit. But it has since emerged that the spokesperson for the Mas Madrid group, Monica Garcia, is also benefiting from the government handout.
‘I recognise the error and I don’t like it,’ said Garcia on Thursday. ‘I believe that this is regressive assistance that is not reaching vulnerable people but rather those who don’t need it. I’m going to do everything that’s in my hands to give it back,’ she added, in comments reported by Europa Press.
The controversy began earlier this week, when online daily info Libre revealed that Enrique Ossorio, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), had claimed €195.82 to help with his energy bills. Not only does he receive the aforementioned six-figure salary, but he is also the Madrid deputy with the highest financial assets: €1.8 million, including an apartment valued at around €400,000.
The benefit that he has claimed was introduced by the central government to help Spaniards deal with spiralling energy costs, and is designed for ‘vulnerable consumers’. He was able to claim it given that he has four children, two of whom are still studying under his care.
It is this status as a familia numerosa, or large family, that saw not only Ossorio receive the subsidy but García as well.
She told radio network Cadena SER that the payment was ‘automatic, we did not request it.’ She also argued that ‘the difference’ between her and Ossorio is that ‘he considers that he deserves it, and I consider that if I had known about it I would have returned it and that is what I am going to try to do.’
The issue was the centre of the debate today in the Madrid regional parliament, which saw the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Juan Lobato, accuse Ossorio of being a ‘vampire’ who takes advantage of public aid that he does not need.
The regional premier, meanwhile, accused Garcia of being a ‘hypocrite’. ‘You need to ask the vice-premier of Madrid to accept your apology,’ Isabel Diaz Ayuso said to Monica Garcia during the heated debate.