#COVID19-How local and regional authorities respond to the crisis: the case of Bilbao

Bilbao approved a plan with more than 50 measures of exceptional nature

Bilbao City Council has been working on a plan to inform, prevent and adopt public measures to avoid contagion in the city since 13 March 2020, when the Lehendakari of the Basque Government declared a health emergency due to the spread of COVID-19 and suspension of teaching in schools and educational institutions.

The key objective of all the measures taken, before, during and at the end of the crisis has been to keep citizens at the centre and not leave any group outside or behind.

The first measures were adopted that same day and were aimed at maintaining social distance and avoiding concentrations of citizens, closing municipal sports centres, district centres, social centres and municipal libraries. All this added to the temporary suspension of events, markets and ensuring physical, telephone and virtual citizen services, depending on the case.

In the first phase, municipal action focused on enabling different types of measures, ranging from social measures to protect vulnerable groups to ensuring provision of public services establishing teleworking, specific measures for organisation of the municipal police service, management of public spaces and markets, etc.

All these measures were taken in coordination with the Department of Health of the Basque Government and in permanent communication with the other competent institutions.

Once the peak of the pandemic was overcome and the de-escalation phase began, but still during the health emergency, on 8 May 2020, Bilbao City Council approved a Social, Economic and Cultural Emergency Plan, called #BILBAO AURRERA, which aims, with an investment of 15 million EUR and an array of more than 50 measures, to alleviate, revive and recover from the effects that the COVID-19 health crisis has had on the PEOPLE and COMPANIES of the City.

This ambitious Plan was drawn up over the last few weeks by the City Council’s Cabinet. It has been completed and agreed with the rest of the political groups in the City Council in coordination with other institutions, as well as with the directly affected sectors and professional areas, with whom several meetings have been held, such as commerce, the hotel industry, culture, etc.

Focus of the #Bilbao Aurrera Plan

This plan is grouped into three specific areas:

  • Social Cohesion with more than EUR 2.2 million
  • Economy and Employment with more than EUR 11.4 million
  • Culture with more than EUR 1.3 million

This is an exceptional and temporary set of measures to be implemented during 2020, the period considered to be most affected. All the measures have been coordinated and complemented with those implemented by other administrations.

At the economic level, the Plan will focus on the sectors where the greatest impact is expected, such as small local businesses, hotels and restaurants, tourism and the cultural and creative industries.

This whole range of actions has been drawn up under the cross-cutting principles of flexibility and capacity to adapt, the search for the greatest impact of resources, a balance between investment and expenditure in accordance with people’s needs but not losing the strength of strategic investments for the city, increasing both internal and external digitalisation, strengthening collaboration and participation with other institutions and cities (public-public and public-private) and maintaining the percentage of subsidies to Development Cooperation for 2020.

The aim is, in parallel, to continue working on other medium and long-term strategic lines and approaches that will help to overcome the current situation.

More information

  • Author: Deputy Mayor Gotzone Sagardui, Bilbao City Council, contact [email protected]
  • Plan #BILBAO AURRERA (summary in EN) is available below, link to the official website
  • ESPON is collecting evidence on how national and local actors are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis. ESPON is open to host any other authors covering the ESPON countries.



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