By Bejay Browne
PEYIA municipality, after realising they had missed out on millions of euros in much-needed revenue for years, has started collecting directly the lucrative fees for sunbeds and beach umbrellas on Coral Bay beach.
The move has brought home to local authorities not only how much they could have been making, but has also prompted some councillors to threaten the remaining private operators with police action in an attempt to claw back years of unpaid fees they owe the municipality for renting out sunbeds.
For the first time, the cash-strapped Peyia municipality is responsible for operating most of the sun bed rentals found at CoralBay, and, according to one local councillor, this has brought to light a “web of deceit”.
Linda Leblanc said that sun bed fees in Peyia are bringing in more than one thousand euros profit a day for the municipality. Beds and umbrellas are each subject to a 2.50 euro charge.
Nicos Konikkos, Peyia councilor and head of the beaches committee said that once the busy summer months are included, the gross payments could reach 300,000 euros a year.
The municipality took over the rental operation at short notice after one private company – previously responsible for operating two beach kiosks and sun beds – agreed to hand back the running of one kiosk and most of the sun bed hire to the municipality in return for waiving thousands in unpaid fees.
The returns have been so high that councillors now believe that some previous operators had lied about how much money they were making and therefore how much they owed the municipality in fees.
“This is the first time that we know how much money is coming in and it’s a real eye opener .How many times did we hear ‘Poor me, tourism is down so I need a discount’,” said Leblanc.
“This is not a great year for tourism – so how much was revenue before? The moaning and groaning was a deception.”
To ensure the cash does not end up in the wrong pockets, the municipality has adopted the system used by Paralimni municipality which uncovered a similar system of false accounting some years ago.
“Twenty years of stealing takings from sun beds was uncovered in Paralimni a while ago. We are now using their current system which was put in place afterwards. Paralimni is confident that Peyia will have full control of the system. It was one of the big concerns of the council,” said Leblanc.
She said there are six other licensed sun bed operators on CoralBay beach and they all have to pay rent. Some have not done so for years and there is an outstanding amount of over 200,000 euros.
Court action has been taken against some of them but whilst the proceedings are slowly winding through the court system, they are still renting out beds on the beach.
“This way, it takes years to get a result and in the meantime the municipality is losing money,” she said, adding that council members want tougher action with some even favouring calling in the police to get them evicted from the beach.
“It’s a goldmine down there and we’re now asking ourselves, how come we haven’t been doing this for years, when every month the municipality is struggling to pay wages,” she said.
“In theory, we have lost millions, and yet we have loans of eight million euros we are trying to pay off.”