Cyprus Mail
Property

Improving efficiency of local self-government

Reform Commissioner Constantinos Petrides (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

DISCUSSIONS regarding the reform of local self government, which were initiated a few years ago, seem to be at an advanced stage. Considerable effort is being invested for the reform to be completed by the new composition of the House of  Representatives through the enactment of three already proposed bills, after the submission of the final propositions of the political parties and local authorities.

The proposed reform provides for the establishment of District Complexes, the preservation of municipalities and the establishment of Councils for the provision of joint services by neighbouring municipalities and communities, aiming at their merger into larger municipalities in the future. A significant development seems to be the amendment of the part of the bill regarding the composition of the Councils of the District Complexes. The bill provides for the election of members of the Councils directly by the electorates of the relevant areas through elections.

However, after the opposition of the Union of Municipalities, the Union of Communities and the majority of the political parties, it appears that these provisions will be amended so that the Council of each District Complex will be composed of representatives of the municipal and community councils participating in the District Complex. This  development is proof of the active involvement of all the parties concerned in the formulation of the final text of the proposed bills.

However, there are still disagreements as to the services which will be provided by the District Complexes, especially the power to grant town planning and building permits. The other services which will be provided by the District Complexes include water supply, sewerage, waste management and environmental services. The proposed bill for the establishment of District Complexes provides for the abolishment of the existing Water Boards, Sewerage and Drainage Boards and Management of Waste Boards and the transfer of these services to the District Complexes.

Notably, despite the lack of cooperation between the municipalities, there are certain communities which have already established informal complexes of services through which joint services are provided. Nevertheless, there remain unresolved issues, such as the horizontal urban development resulting in people moving out of city centres and the scattered development
of rural areas, the lack of legislative regulation on the amount and calculation of state subsidy to local authorities and the financial dependence of local authorities on the state.

The financial and administrative dependence of local self-government on central government limits the autonomy of municipalities and communities, violating at the same time the relevant principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The status of the local self-government in Cyprus, including the proposed reform, is currently being monitored by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The proposed legislation for the reform of local self government introduces institutions and procedures that improve the functioning of local self-government, including the encouragement of citizen participation in the affairs of local authorities and the creation of internal audit units, harmonising the legislation with the principles of subsidiarity, transparency and proximity.

However, the bill governing the establishment of District Complexes provides for significant intervention of central Government in the financial management of local authorities, while maintaining the involvement of the District Officer in the meetings of the District Complexes’ Councils as an observer.

George Coucounis is a lawyer specialising in the Immovable Property Law, based in Larnaca, Tel: 24 818288, [email protected], www.coucounislaw.com

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