MPs want the interior ministry to submit a more detailed road map on the reform of local administration, which under the government’s proposal envisages a long transition period until full implementation.
Before the House interior committee are currently three government bills, one of which aims to cut administrative costs through a clustering of services on a district level and a reduction in the payroll.
The government is also proposing a gradual reduction in the number of municipalities from 30 to 22 over an approximate three-year period.
An estimated 75 per cent of the municipalities’ budgets go toward payment of salaries and pensions; and many municipalities are either broke or on the verge of bankruptcy, with the central government often guaranteeing loans on their behalf.
A road map for local administration reform was submitted to parliament last week, but lawmakers found it to be incomplete and have asked for a more comprehensive blueprint.
One concern MPs raised was that several laws related to the powers of local authorities would need to be amended – which takes time – since under the government plan some of the services now provided by municipalities are to be subsumed by the proposed district clusters.
For example, water and sewerage services would be delegated to the proposed clusters.
Another issue is that municipal elections, held every five years, are scheduled for this December. However, the transitional period to the new local administration system will take around two-and-a-half years following passage of the three government bills. That in turn means that the term of the new municipal councils to be elected this December would be curtailed, since the government plan envisages full implementation of the new system by July 2019. Normally, the following municipal elections would have been held in 2021.
Back in July, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, who is pushing an ambitious reform plan that would radically shake up local administration, proposed that the upcoming elections be pushed back to 2019, to coincide with elections to the European parliament.
This, he argued, would help the government save money spent on separate elections, and allow precious time for debate on the contentious fine-print of local-government reform.
But this proposal is still very much up in the air.
Under the government’s road map, as it stands, the reform legislation must be passed by parliament by this December. In January 2017, the cabinet will issue a decision designating the areas of responsibility for each of the new clusters.
Then, in April, the cabinet will issue a decision on the clustering of services. Approval of the regulations regarding this is expected in May, and the provision of common services is slated for June 2017.
The establishment of the district clusters and their councils is planned by January 2018, and approval of their operating regulations is expected by June that year.
Finally, the clusters are envisaged to go fully operational by July 2019.