Having more than 17 municipalities would lead to financial viability problems with taxpayers footing the bill, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on the debate on the local government reform.
The minister, in an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, reiterated the government did not agree with raising the number of municipalities to over 17 after it was suggested by opposition during discussion in parliament for the number to reach 20.
Parties decided earlier in the month to postpone to the new year a vote in the plenum on the local government reform bills, while at the same time avowing their support for the project.
On whether he was concerned about the delay in the adoption of the legislation in question, Nouris stated: “after 10 years of discussions, I am not worried about the delay of a few weeks in the decision-making by the parliamentary parties.”
He said his ministry has sent many letters to political leaders on the importance of this reform, stressing that Cyprus has a contractual obligation to the EU that also stems from the Recovery Fund, “which generously intends to provide €240 m which is intended for expenditures in local government”. After the reform is voted, he added, Cyprus needs to document to the European Commission why this model was reached and justify whether it is sustainable.
The government, however, he added, is concerned that an attempt was made “to change the scenario that we all had shaped through consultations on the 17 new entities, to add at least three new entities, bringing the number to 20, with the prospect of increasing them even more, at least, based on what we hear from the parliamentary parties.”
Nouris pointed out that both he and President Nicos Anastasiades, had stated at the general assembly of the Union of Municipalities this week, that a further increase in the number of entities poses huge problems for local government since it raises issues of sustainability.
“So, the government is ready to discuss anything less than 17 new entities,” he added.
The minister said that, if, in the end, more municipalities were created, this would lead “with mathematical precision” to a problem of economic viability, with the taxpayer asked to foot the bill. He explained that local authorities will be called to absorb any deficits, and this will obviously be at the expense of the services they would provide to their residents.