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Our View: Consensus has made a mockery of local government reform

ayia napa001
Ayia Napa did not want to be absorbed by Paralimni municipality and will remain in tact

Reform of local government has degenerated into farce. This was inevitable given that the government sought to achieve this through a misguided pursuit of consensus. While this was understandable, given that it needs the support of some parties to get the reform through the legislature, its so-called flexibility has allowed the parties and some of the bigger municipalities to dictate what will happen.

It was grossly naïve to think that the political parties, which were the reason we have an unsustainable number of municipalities, would contribute constructively to the reform. And it was colossally foolish to believe the municipalities would do anything other than fight against their demise. In the end, we will have 20 municipalities (possibly 21) instead of the 17 proposed by the government – this was too many anyway – as each party wanted to maintain municipalities in which they had strong support. And this includes government party Disy.

The municipalities that wanted to maintain their power eventually got their way. For example Yeroskipou will not be absorbed into Paphos municipality but itself absorb several village communities and be known as West Paphos municipality. Ludicrously, there will also be an East Paphos municipality and a (central?) Paphos municipality. Apart from the east, west and central municipalities of Limassol there will also be one for Polemidia. The Famagusta district will have three municipalities, because Ayia Napa did not want to be absorbed by Paralimni and it will remain intact, absorbing Sotira and Liopetri, and the third will be Dherynia which is an Akel stronghold.

In the end the so-called reform might reduce the number of municipalities and community councils, but it is unlikely to achieve its primary objectives – rationalisation of local government, improvement of service, reduction of costs and, ultimately, viability. Twenty municipalities for a country of one million people are still far too many and uneconomical. The government should have proposed six big local authorities so that the parties took the number up to 10, which would have been manageable, and this would have prevented Ayia Napa, Yeroskipou and others fighting against their demise.

Instead now, because the reform has to be approved by the end of the year, for EU funding purposes, the government is at the complete mercy of the parties which know this and are taking advantage of it. Most have even supported Akel’s idiotic proposal for separate referendums on the proposed mergers at each new municipality, which would allow ‘no’ votes in one to derail the whole reform. On the plus side, the referendums will be held in two years, by which time the idea might be dropped.

This approximation of reform could be further disfigured in the coming week as parties are expected to apply the final touches to the government’s proposal.

 

 

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