By Constantinos Psillides
LIMASSOL district mayors yesterday railed against the interior ministry’s proposed local government reform, warning Minister Socratis Hasikos that it would essentially spell the end of current municipalities.
Limassol mayor Andreas Christou said the government’s plan to establish five second-tier local authorities – one for every district- “will dismantle local governance that has a history of 126 years.”
“They say that it will bring down so-called kingdoms but we say that it will create emperors,” he said.
According to the government’s reform plan, the local authorities will be given many of the responsibilities currently handled by municipalities, such as the issuing of building permits, provision of services and rubbish collection.
“The proposed reform is a recipe for dismantling the institution of municipalities… for which many fights were fought,” said Christou, also accusing Hasikos of not consulting them.
Hasikos responded to the accusations, saying he did consult with municipalities and that discussion was still ongoing but regarding the reforms, he was adamant.
“Reforming local government is a one-way street and it will happen,” he said.
In a Monday meeting with the Union of Cyprus Municipalities (UCM), Hasikos made clear that the reform plan would be presented to the Cabinet within days while the relevant bill must be passed by parliament by the end of 2014.
There are currently 39 municipalities in Cyprus, 9 of which are occupied lands municipalities.
A report commissioned by the government on local government reform –which came out in January found out that that the status quo was unviable and recommended that municipalities be cut down to five. The UCM strongly disagreed and commissioned their own by Italian experts. The second report also found that the current state of affairs was unacceptable but their suggestion was a cut to 12.
Cyprus News Agency reports that Christou warned Hasikos with retaliatory measures, although he declined to be more specific.