By Angelos Anastasiou
Interior minister Socrates Hasikos on Saturday responded to opposition criticism over the proposed creation of second-tier local government, saying he expects proposals, not slogans.
Speaking on state radio on Saturday, Hasikos insisted that the proposed overhaul, that would move authority – along with funding and debts – from current local administrations to overarching authorities, will incur annual cost savings of €40 to €50 million.
The estimate was countered by opposition AKEL, which issued a statement announcing it will oppose the proposal.
“Instead of trying to modernise local government authorities in line with citizens’ needs, the minister cited arbitrary and baseless calculations to prove it will cut costs, when there has been no study and, by his own admission, his ministry is unable to perform one,” said Stavros Yerolatchitis, head of AKEL’s Local Government desk.
“AKEL will vote against the government’s bill and will oppose its logic,” he added. “We call on the minister to withdraw the bill and enter real dialogue for the benefit of local government, citizen service and society in general.”
The bill, unveiled on Thursday, suggests the creation of a new body for each of the districts that would take a lot of power away from municipalities.
Hasikos rejected the AKEL assertions and gave an overview of municipalities’ dire economic state.
He said political parties and the public agree on the need to reform local government, and revealed he had a meeting with the
leadership of the Cooperative Central Bank last Friday.
“The CCB’s leadership expressed concern over municipalities’ loans, which add up to €370 million,” he said. “Tens of these are non-performing, with only interest being paid, and municipalities’ debts to commercial banks are similar.”
Hasikos invited all parties to a dialogue to table proposals, not slogans and a spirit of negativity.
“This time we expect specific positions, not ‘the study said this or that’ or other platitudes,” said Hasikos. “There is a proposal on the table and we invite them to position themselves on it.”
He also extended criticism against DISY leader Averof Neophytou, charging that he was the first to jump on the reactionary bandwagon.
Neophytou raised more than a few eyebrows on Thursday, when he came out against Hasikos’ proposal, saying it would likely increase costs instead of cutting them, without improving services to citizens.
While acknowledging the DISY leader’s right to voice an opinion, Hasikos claimed it changes nothing regarding the heart of the issue.
“But you realise that if the ruling party comes out with this view, it is not possible for opposition parties to behave otherwise,” he said.