Madrid city hall, led by right-wing Popular Party (PP) mayor Ana Botella, is in the process of replacing 4,265 bus shelters with a new design, described as "more modern and attractive", featuring WiFi and information panels.
But angry locals posted snaps of the new shelters on social media and condemned them as 'anti-homeless'.
Al PP no le gusta la gente sin casa, aunque sean ellos los q te echen a la calle (bancos antimendigos) pic.twitter.com/o18kzs0V6Q— ★Isabel Aranjuez★ (@isaranjuez) August 26, 2014
The PP doesn't like the homeless, even though it's they who put them on the street (anti-homeless benches)
Metal dividers on the seats in the shelters prevent anyone from lying down in them. The company responsible for the shelters' manufacture, a union of JCDecaux and Cemusa, refused to be drawn on whether this was deliberate, saying that design was "based on the conditions of the tender".
According to Spanish daily 20 Minutos, the tender document makes no mention of dividers but does specify that five designs had to be submitted by each company and notes that the final choice would be made by the city hall.
Having won the concession, JCDecaux and Cemusa will pay the city hall some €12 million ($15.5 million) over 13.5 years in return for retaining some of the advertising revenues from posters on the shelters. Options allow the contract to be extended for five years beyond that period.
The last of the new shelters are all due to be installed "between end of the year and the early part of next year" despite an initial deadline of October 12th.
The local branch of opposing political party UPyD described the new contract as "botched" and its spokesperson, David Ortega, criticized its possible 19-year duration, and asked, "Is it legitimate from a democratic point of view that a government, with elections just months away, should make a decision that binds up to the next three future mayors?"
Current Madrid mayor Ana Botella recently announced that she would not be standing for re-election after a series of high-profile gaffes put her under political pressure from within her own party.