By Maria Gregoriou
CYPRUS, with a population of 840,407, has more local authorities than the UK, which has a population of 65 million, and Bulgaria with a population of nine million.
Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said yesterday the government did not believe the number of municipalities in Cyprus should be cut, even though he conceded that spending needed to be reduced.
According to data from the interior ministry, there are 401 local authorities in the government-controlled areas, of which 30 are municipalities and 371 community authorities.
These numbers do not include the occupied areas, which boasts another nine municipalities.
According to local daily Alithia, the United Kingdom has 238 local authorities and Bulgaria 264.
The interior ministry has recently sent out a letter to municipalities outlining the guidelines on how to reform local authorities.
The current structure of the local government and many other features make local authorities unsustainable or problematic, the letter said.
Since 1999 no changes to the structure of local authorities have been carried out in Cyprus while in Europe from 1950 until 2007, Austria has decreased its local authorities by 58 per cent, Belgium by 22 per cent, Germany by 55 per cent, Sweden by 12 per cent and the United Kingdom by 21 per cent.
According to Alithia, Nicosia has a population of 326,980, Limassol has 235,330, Larnaca has 143,192, Paphos has 88,276 and Famagusta has 46,629.
From the 371 communities, 37 have a population of over 2,000 while 17 have a population of less than 200 citizens. The reminder fall in between.
Speaking in Paralimini yesterday Hasikos said: “It is a fact that while the number of municipalities has increased, the money they get from the state has not been increased but rather decreased. When the decision was made to increase the number of municipalities, an economic study was not put in place, neither was the economic crisis taken into consideration.”
He said the current government had decreased funding to municipalities by 11 to 12 per cent. The serious cuts were made in 2010, he said.
“If we compare the budget of 2010 to the budget for 2013, we will see that there is a sharp decline from €75 million to €55 million,” he added. Some 75 per cent of all funding goes on salaries.
Hasikos said Cyprus should look to what other countries are doing in regards to saving money in the midst of the crisis.
The minister said that at the moment there was an ongoing dialogue between the ministry and the municipalities union on how money could be saved. British experts were also doing a study.
Hasikos made it clear that the situation, as it stands now, with the municipalities could not continue.
“Although the government is of the opinion that the municipalities should not be reduced, there is an absolute necessity to find ways of saving money. This can be done by the municipalities working together,” Hasikos said.