Cyprus Mail

Local government reform package would streamline water and sewerage

By Elias Hazou

The three bills comprising the government’s local administration reform package could go to the plenum by Easter or before the summer recess, the chair of the House interior committee said on Monday.

Eleni Mavrou was speaking after the committee completed discussion of one of the bills, which aims to establish district-level organisations or complexes replacing the services currently provided by several water development and sewerage boards.

The bill’s main thrust is to reduce the operational costs of municipalities of which there are far too many offering the same services.

Water development, waste management and sewerage boards are currently run by municipalities and communities.

The bill purports to bring these under one roof per district. Each district complex would be headed by a 15-member council, selected by the member-municipalities.

Discussion of the two other government items of legislation is due to begin in two weeks’ time. One of the items pertains to reducing the number of municipalities.

The plan is for all three bills to be passed together as the issues are interconnected.

Mavrou told the Cyprus Mail that the bill on cutting the number of municipalities does not explicitly cite a number.

But in July 2016, the interior ministry sent a letter to MPs, where it suggested slashing the municipalities from 30 to 22.

Mavrou estimated that the new consolidated system could be up and running within two to two-and-a-half years, following the necessary transition.

Assuming the consolidation does take place, she added, some current jobs in the various services would have to be abolished.

Party filibustering has seen the local government reform package languish at committee level since July 2015, when it was first submitted by the interior ministry.

In October last year, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos proposed the postponement of municipal elections in December for a couple of years so that the reforms could be put in place. The idea was rejected by the parties. Hasikos then suggested mayors and councillors could serve a term of two-and-a-half years instead of five but this was also turned down.

Local authorities are plagued by several problems, as highlighted in successive reports by the auditor-general. These include cash-flow problems, big delays in debt collections, loans in excess of €300 million for some, failure to submit accounts within the period specified by law, non-existent audit procedures and debts to pension funds in excess of €150 million.


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