By Bejay Browne
PAPHOS councillors are furious with the mayor’s refusal to discuss at Monday’s council meeting the removal of shop awnings from the front of stores in the old town after initially agreeing to do so, it emerged on Tuesday.
They were also infuriated by the mayor’s steam-roller approach to the issue, and one affected shopkeeper called him a dictator. Councillor Andreas Chrysanthou told the Cyprus Mail that Mayor, Phedonas Phedonos, had walked out at the end of Monday night’s council session, after previously agreeing to discuss the matter of taking down shop awnings ahead of the proposed dismantling of them on Tuesday morning.
The mayor wants them gone but councillors wanted to engage in discussion at the behest of shopkeepers who are disgruntled over the move by the municipality.
“We agreed to discuss the matter of the removal of shop awnings at the end of the council meeting, after it had come to the council’s attention ahead of the meeting. However, at 10pm, the mayor stood up and said ‘session is over,’ and walked out, we are all furious,” said Chrysanthou.
In fact, seven members of the municipality’s important 11-member administrative committee, signed a letter to say they would not participate in a scheduled meeting on Tuesday lunchtime due to the “undemocratic behaviour of the mayor”. One member is abroad and another has a death in the family and were unavailable, he added.
The centre of Paphos is undergoing a massive upgrading project and the main shopping street of the area, Makarios Avenue, which leads to the market, has recently been pedestrianised. Works which were scheduled to take a year took double the time and some roads remain closed and works unfinished.
The councillor said that instances of awnings and illegalities in the area must be examined first and a clear guide as to what is allowable and what is not to be agreed.
“We (the council) want to discuss the matter further and the reaction of the mayor is inexcusable, and if his behaviour continues, he will find the majority of the city council against him and not with him on critical issues,” he said.
Shopkeepers in the area have struggled to remain open during the works, many had to shut up shop, and continued to pay taxes, although business was a trickle, said one Paphos shopkeeper, who spoke on condition of anonymity, due to ‘possible repercussions’.
He said that Phedonos had become a dictator and his recent actions were undoing all the previously good work which he has undertaken in the town.
Despite the councils wish to further discuss the issue, on Tuesday, staff of the technical department of the municipality removed four or five awnings from shop fronts in the market area, saying that no awnings of any kind are permitted, said the store owner. However, they halted work after removing them, as shop keepers were up in arms in protest, as they said they had no warning.
“They (the municipality and mayor) are not even recognising our basic need to protect our shops and stock. Beating sun, rain and hail will destroy my shop front and my stock, and offer no protection to shoppers” he said, adding that the first people to be targeted were those that had spoken out about the mayor and his actions on previous occasions.
The businessman said that a letter of warning should have been given to stores in the area, informing them of the law and what is and isn’t allowed. The businesses would then have time to implement them, he said. “There is no communication whatsoever and no-one seems to know what is and isn’t allowed. They are making it up as we go along.”
He warned that the mayor’s behaviour is also preventing new investment in the area, with seventy per cent of shops remaining closed.
“We are not even allowed any signs on our shops and we are extremely angry. Phedonos is destroying the place and he is causing so much stress.”
Andreas Evlavis, head of the Paphos Green party, said that although they support the mayor and under no circumstances support any illegalities, the mayor should take a more reasonable and human approach to the issue.
“This is not the right way to go about things and the shops should have been given a couple of weeks to remove illegal awnings and replace them. They are suffering and have a greatly reduced business; a gentler approach would get a better result,” he advised.
He added that there are no clear decisions as to what is illegal and that this must be a democratic decision of the council and not just the mayor taking decisions on his own.
“He needs to be more flexible and do things the right way,” he said.
The Cyprus Mail was unable to contact the mayor for comment.