The Latest: Madrid takes over Catalonia bills to quell vote

The Latest on the independence bid for Spain's northeastern Catalonia region (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Spain's finance minister says the central government has decided to take over payments of essential services in the northeastern region of Catalonia amid a controversial bid by politicians there to hold an independence referendum.

Cristobal Montoro says the government is also giving officials in Catalonia 48 hours to comply with a new system to scrutinize public payments by Catalonia to ensure that no public funds are being used on the illegal vote.

Montoro's ministry ordered regional authorities back in July to send weekly spending reports instead of monthly reports. But on Thursday, Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, who is in charge of economic affairs, said he would stop providing them because the scrutiny was politically motivated.

The extraordinary measures were justified, Montoro said, for the sake of budgetary stability in Catalonia and to defend Spain's legal order.


10:30 p.m.

Catalan officials are addressing a letter to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy calling for negotiations to agree on a referendum on the northeastern region's independence.

Spanish officials have rejected the unilateral vote planned for Oct. 1. Rajoy has said that a constitutional reform through a strong majority in the national parliament is the only avenue for a legal referendum.

Separatist politicians launched the Yes campaign on Thursday as they press ahead with the vote despite a ban by the country's courts and a criminal investigation into three out of four Catalan mayors actively supporting it.

In the letter, President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau also say that Spain has launched "an offensive of repression without precedent."

The letter says a copy is being sent to King Felipe VI.