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‘Residents ought to have a say in local government merger’

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Any changes including mergers of local authorities should be done through referendums and not by force, the community leader of Chlorakas, Nicolas Liasides said on Sunday.

In a written statement, the head of the Paphos district’s coastal community said that the clustering of services of local authorities should be promoted soon to help sustain the existing entities, while “any conversion / change, unification or integration of a local authority with another ought to be done through referendums rather than by force.”

Liasides said that the aim is to provide citizens with top-quality services resulting from the increase of powers of local authorities. The latter, he said, ought to be “financially autonomous, properly organised and self-governed and without any guardians.”

He suggests that community councils, “that will retain their name, history and the right to self-government” should cluster some of their services, such as rubbish collection, technical services and municipal police. The rest of services should remain under each community council, he said.

He added that Chlorakas, with 15 hotel units that reached  last year 900,000 stays and over 1,000 tourist apartments and villas, has contributed in 2018 more than €150m to the country’s gross domestic product. This, he said, is from tourism alone, not counting “sales of villas and houses to foreign investors.”

Several municipalities and communities have expressed their opposition to the government’s intention of merging local authorities.

The interior ministry this week said that no final decision has been taken yet on which municipalities will be merged as part of the drive for local government reform, following media reports that the number of municipalities would be halved.

Daily Politis said it got a sneak peek of a draft government bill which provides for reducing the number of municipalities in the government-controlled areas from 30 to 15.

The ministry said that a techno-economic study was underway on reforming local government and that various scenarios were being examined, although there was nothing definitive at this moment. Consultations with stakeholders are ongoing, it said.

The core philosophy, according to the daily, hinges less on reducing the number of municipalities and more on devolving to them services and jurisdictions currently held by the central government.

In the Greater Nicosia area, the municipalities are to be cut from nine presently to four, with Strovolos and Aglandjia slated to be joined in one mega-municipality.

In Limassol, similar mergers will bring the number of municipalities down from six to three, while in the Larnaca district, Larnaca municipality is to be merged with Livadia and Dromolaxia-Meneou, and Aradippou with Athienou.

Lastly in Paphos, Paphos municipality would be fused with Yeroskipou and a few neighbouring communities.

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