A study on the creation of 35 to 40 administrative clusters of local councils, commissioned by the interior ministry, will be ready by November 2017, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Wednesday.
Following a meeting with Union of Local Councils reps, Petrides said the grouping together of administrative services was the main item on the agenda.
“We are pressing ahead fast,” the minister said.
“Right now, a study commissioned by the interior ministry is being prepared, on how many clusters should be created. The number is between 35 and 40. These groups will offer common services with a view to increasing quality, efficiency and cost savings.”
Examples of such benefits, he added, would be garbage collection and disposal, administrative and accounting services, maintenance of council buildings and the road network, certain healthcare-related services and traffic regulating services.
The ministry, Petrides said, is also examining the legal framework that will regulate the clustering.
“I believe that, once the study has been finalised, around October or November, we will be in a position to announce the results of a substantial, bottom-up reform in local government,” he said.
“The union [of local councils] is showing great eagerness and taking substantial initiatives in this direction.”
In addition to clusters, Petrides announced that €5.2 million in cost savings from the interior ministry’s budget will be diverted to 137 minor projects in 111 local communities.
The projects in question are pavement improvements, roads and building renovations.
Union of Local Councils chief Andreas Kitromilides said that cooperation with the ministry on bringing together administrative services is “very close”.
“We have finalised the terms of inviting tenders for a study, so that we can know exactly what the benefit of clustering will be,” he said.
Welcoming Petrides’ pledge for projects to be funded out of the ministry’s budget, Kitromilides said the cabinet decision to repay the guaranteed loans of local councils was also discussed.
“It’s a small number of councils that have such loans, and the required amount is small,” the union rep said.
“We also discussed the scheduled meeting we will have with the president, as well as the issues we plan to raise, which include the closure of rural co-op bank branches, the state subsidy and street lighting.”
Asked to comment on transparency shortfalls raised by the Audit Service, Kitromilides said “we asked the auditor-general to hold audits of local councils’ financial statements on an annual basis, as stipulated in the law”.
“Today, the audits are being outsourced to private firms,” he said.
Petrides said that the effort for the mandatory clustering of services is being made to ensure that the auditor-general’s transparency recommendations are being adopted.