By Evie Andreou
TOO Much time has already been lost and crucial municipal reform must be voted into law by the end of the year, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos warned on Monday.
Hasikos who met with the Union of Cyprus Municipalities (UCM) and the local communities’ union to discuss reform of local government, said that the reform plan is expected to be presented to the Cabinet within days while the relevant bill must be passed by parliament by the end of 2014.
“A lot of time has been consumed. It has been discussed for more than a decade, the time has come,” Hasikos warned.
“We will proceed with the creation of a second-tier local authority or district council,” Hasikos said.
The government’s reform plans for local government were presented earlier this month by Hasikos. The plan envisages the creation of five second-tier local authorities – one for every district – that would be given many of the responsibilities currently handled by municipalities, such as the issuing of building permits, provision of services, rubbish collection etc.
Hasikos told union officials that decentralisation would result in direct and upgraded services offered to residents at the lowest possible cost.
Chairman of the UCM, Alexis Galanos, agreed with the minister on the time frame of the voting of the bill and assured that he would work closely with the minister in his effort.
He asked for a short breathing space however so that he could hear the opinions of the mayors at the upcoming general meeting of the municipalities on July 6.
Galanos said that the UCM would expect to receive more details on the functioning of the proposed second-tier body.
Discussions on local government reform begun early in 2014 with the release of a report prepared by the National School of Government International (NSGI) in January.
The report was commissioned by the government as part of its effort to modernise the public sector and sought to “provide feasible options for improvement, reorganisation and restructuring of the Cypriot local government.”
The UK experts recommended sweeping reforms and suggested the current island’s 30 local authorities to be reduced to a mere five, which should be aligned with the geographical boundaries of existing district offices.
UCM disagreed with the report and the government backed down on reducing the number of municipalities.