By Constantinos Psillides
THE number of municipalities should be reduced to 12 from the current 39, according to a new report by Italian consultants commissioned by the Union of Cyprus Municipalities (UCM), adding that the present model of operation is no longer viable.
The new report counters a similar study by the British National School of Government International (NSGI) on behalf of the state that concluded the number of municipalities should be cut down to five.
At present, local administration comprises 30 municipalities and nine refugee municipalities from the occupied areas. The refugee municipalities primarily deal with community issues and informing public opinion about the Cyprus problem.
Interior minister Socratis Hasikos had rejected the possibility of reducing the number of municipalities to five, saying that he did not believe such a small number would work in Cyprus.
The NSGI study also said that the status quo isn’t viable, offering three options of reforming the local authorities.
The best one, according to the British study, suggested replacing existing local government structures with five new directly elected local authorities, with boundaries matching those of the district offices. The new bodies would, at the very least, combine the powers and responsibilities of both district offices and municipalities and communities.
The report identified substantial benefits in this option, like clear accountability, the capacity to assume additional responsibilities, and the existence of a core – in District Offices – to build around.