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9 May 2014

The Spain drain: 90,000 reasons why Brits are NOT fleeing in droves

SPAIN'S statistical revelation that British expats have been returning to the UK ''in droves'' came as a real eye opener.The Daily Telegraph jumped gleefully on the figures and off we went on a 'bash the Spanish dream' campaign for the umpteenth time.
The blind were leading the blind again.
Within a couple of days, a film crew from BBC TV's The One Show were charging around the Costa Blanca seeking sob stories of debt and despair.It all kicked off when statisticians in Madrid announced that 90,000 Brits abandoned their sunshine dreamland last year in a desperate hunt for the joys of pure English rain and rust.
The Daily Telegraph’s typically boring appraisal suggested the economic crisis, lack of work and failing health among the elderly were to blame.Even the BBC, the world's primary bastion of broadcasting correctness, didn't dispute the figures – which suggested the Costas would be just about empty now that Easter has come and gone.
Doubts grew among local cynics when it was established the numbers had emerged from local town halls. And, more specifically, from the Padron office.As far as the UK media was concerned, 90,000 was 90,000 and that was that. Fact. 
Padron me, but who monitored the ex-expats on their way out? Where were the Spanish bureaucracy’s red-tape records revealing who exactly had left the country? For heaven's sake, half the Brits with homes in Spain  aren't even on the Padron. And the other half couldn't tell you why it exists at all.
Joe Crowley: Numbers game
As for how many actually have gone home (if indeed the number of Brits in Spain isn’t increasing), we all have our own views.

One Show presenter Joe Crowley repeatedly threw the figure of 90,000 at me during an hour of filming at my home in El Raso – and I repeatedly chucked it back.

I had no idea at the time, but I was riding my chuck, I mean luck. And, sure enough, back in London the programme editors chucked my footage into the bin. No complaints there, because I had no wish to be part of a programme dispensing misleading ‘facts’
.Personally, I believe the Spanish dream is as vividly exciting as ever for the vast majority of Brits.The economic situation is also looking up - and had Joe spoken to local estate agents rather than voiced-over empty streets and For Sale boards, he’d have been put right on the resurgent property market.
The reality is that, against a backdrop of cranes and construction workers, a new building boom has begun.Phill Smirke of The Property Shop is one of those professionals who insists the housing market is on the up.He also maintains that, far from being forced to sell and leave the country,  expats whose homes have plummeted in value since 2007 could well recoup every centimo by 2019.
Admittedly, the lack of work remains a killer for young families, but most of the Brits settle here when they no longer need a job.And while supermarket shopping can be as costly as the UK, where in England can you enjoy a three-course Chinese meal for a fiver?
 In a country where a couple can dine out seven days a week for 100 quid (with a bottle of  decent wine thrown in), it  makes no sense that 90,000 would flee
.One person who knows the REAL story is expat Phil Hughes, who works with the Guardamar del Segura council. He revealed: 

''Every council wants people on the Padrón, the list of residents from which the local government receives money from Central and Regional government for healthcare, education, major roads etc. ''So for 10 years at a time, we add as many people as we can. ''People leave but they rarely ask to come off before doing so. Therefore, when people like me are asked to 'conduct a census of foreigners' by the National Statistics Office (INE) every 10 years, they find  that a huge amount of "residents" have been dead, moved, or simply never actually lived in the houses in which they were registered for many years.So, every 10 years, local councils with a "transient population" will have a jolt from the INE. It's just that this year, we are on the back of the worst financial crisis in memory, and so the figures appear to be a sudden event when in fact, it's the result of a 10-year 're-adjustment'.
''In the UK one would conduct a written census. Here, let's just say it's 'less than thorough'' The figures quoted are just plucked out of the sky. The reality is absolutely a whole lot worse, but over the last six or seven years, not just 12 months.''

Ultimately, The One Show took a non-confrontational line in their broadcast, but stuck to the figure of 90,000. A vox pop  of expats produced predictable comments, which left my friend and neighbour Marjory Norris suitably unimpressed.
Like me, Marjory – who has lived in Spain fo 12 years - believes the expat community is growing  rather than shrinking.''It was much ado about nothing,'' was her verdict on the  One Show broadcast
Not quite an example of the blind leading the blind, then
.More like the bland leading the bland..