© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine and compare the views of mayors and comptrollers of Catalan municipalities on aspects related to the Spanish legislation on financial sustainability – its usefulness and necessity of maintaining, its impact on citizens’ welfare and alternative proposals. The setting is rather interesting as strict rules are imposed by a legislation criticized of mimicking European Commission policies, on well-performing municipalities, in light of the recent “independency” conflict. Design/methodology/approach: The study uses insights from the public choice theory and the concept of accountability to draw a framework that could explain the perceptions of mayors and comptrollers. The views of the two groups are captured with the use of an online questionnaire. Findings: The results indicate that while the application of strict rules has borne fruit, this trend is not sustainable in the long run and a careful reconsideration is required. Accordingly, both groups express concerns on citizens’ future welfare. It moreover appears that in this particular setting, mayors’ and comptrollers’ sense of accountability toward citizens exceed their personal interests. Originality/value: This study provides empirical evidence on the impact of strict budget stability and sustainability rules on the long-term financial sustainability of local governments from the point of view of mayors and municipality comptrollers who are called to implement them.