By George Psyllides
THE GOVERNMENT is looking into handing municipalities more powers as part of plans to reform local authorities, which are finding it hard to cope with the economic crisis due to a fall in revenues.
Interior minister Socratis Hasikos said municipalities could be authorised to issue town-planning and construction permits, or handle municipal policing, among others — powers that are currently the responsibility of central government.
The minister was speaking after a broad meeting that looked into the reform of local authorities, many of which are finding it hard to survive following cuts to the assistance they receive from the state.
A committee of experts is working on the matter, expected to deliver its first findings next month. Cyprus must brief international lenders on the solutions it has come up with by the end of next summer, the minister said.
The focus is finding ways to cooperate in a bid to save money, Hasikos said.
There was also a need to serve certain other needs that concerned the services offered to the public.
Cyprus has 30 municipalities — plus nine occupied municipalities with their own mayors — and 370 community councils, all of which were funded by the central government.
Only four had a population of more than 50,000, while 12 had fewer than 10,000 residents.
As has been the case with semi-state companies, local authorities have been used by political parties as vehicles to provide employment to their supporters and public posts to their members.