Trader's tax squeezes Madrid's flea market

Traders of the Rastro, the best known flea-market in Spain, are up in arms over plans by Madrid's regional government that they fear will choke off their livelihood. They say proposals to regulate street selling will slash their number from 1,745 to 300 and transform the face of the capital's much loved landmark.

The draft law would oblige street sellers to pay an "economic activities" tax plus insurance and social security contributions that traders fear could amount to pounds 180 a month. But many make so little from their stalls that they would be driven away, according to the Independent Association of Rastro Traders that represents the majority of the stallholders.

"We work only on Sundays and for most of us it is the only income we have. Some people have been coming for 30 or 40 years, artisans selling their own handicrafts, and we can't afford to pay extra taxes. The authorities are treating us as professional traders, but most of us are not," says the traders' president, Mario Agreda.

Mr Agreda believes the regulations would break a traditional bond between the people of Madrid, international visitors for whom the Rastro is as essential a port of call as the Prado, and the workers of the area. "They are squeezing us with a vile garotte, so that we will disappear, trying to make us into dinosaurs, an extinct species," Mr Agreda said yesterday.

At present, Rastro traders pay only an annual fee for the right to occupy a spot on the street. There is no actual street called the Rastro. The area, a focus of informal trading for centuries, covers a vast sprawl of streets in what used to be known as the "low quarters", a nod to the area's working class origins and its low-lying situation.

It fans out from the Plaza Cascorro, dominated by a monument honouring a soldier from a nearby orphanage who volunteered for a suicide mission against Cuban rebels in 1890. Up to half a million people cram through on a summer Sunday. The area is studded with tapas bars, which as lunch time approaches become filled with those seeking wine, prawns and respite from the sun that spears you in the face. These bars "would all die" warns Mr Agreda.

The head of the UGT union's trade and restaurants division, Daniel Prieto, says the regulations are inspired by business interests. "Street trading accounts for huge sums of money, and big companies want to push the little antique dealers or jewellery makers or quill pen collectors out of this traditional centre, so that they can move in themselves," he said yesterday.

Eugenio Morales, a Socialist on Madrid's city council, which is run by the conservative Popular Party, said his group would propose the opening of a consultation process at the council meeting next Tuesday. "Any new regulation must arise from discussions among those affected, the traders and neighbourhood associations, everyone involved in the Rastro. You can't impose a law that no one wants, or you'll have trouble," he warned yesterday.

Those responsible for the proposals say the Rastro would have to comply, but amendments will be considered. Carmen Caballero, head of trade and consumer affairs for the regional government, said yesterday:

"We are preparing a law that will regulate street trading in general, and the Rastro is one of many street markets. Our aim is to dignify the profession of street trader and protect the consumer. But if the Town Hall asks us to make an exception for the Rastro we are prepared to consider their request."

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game