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Property

We need strong municipalities with strong mayors

coucounis 2

The reform of local government must come through its essential modernisation

 

Local self-governing authorities that are capable of responding to their mission in the modern era, with powers and responsibilities with the aim of enhancing democracy at a local and wider level and developing their community, with a view to improving the life of the citizen, should be the goal of the planned reform in Cyprus.

Moreover, the concept of local government means the right and ability of local authorities, within the limits of the law, to regulate and manage a substantial part of public affairs under in the interest of the local population.

The legislation provides for the establishment and creation of 20 new municipalities and the determination of municipal districts, the establishment of community service clusters and the existing communities assuming their respective responsibilities.

The granted powers are essentially full and exclusive and will be exercised preferably by the authorities closest to the citizen, while discretion is left to them to adapt their exercise to local condition.

Sectors such as development and infrastructure, cleanliness, health and quality of life, social welfare and social cohesion, education and culture, security and civil protection, environmental protection and combating climate change, services, urban planning, digital upgrading and encouraging the participation of citizens in local affairs, are part of the responsibilities, which in the framework of the law, have been granted to the local authorities.

They will be exercised by their democratically elected decision-making bodies, with sufficient financial resources from taxes, fees, royalties and state grants, which they will be able to freely dispose of within their powers.

In order for the reform of the local government to have meaning and impact, it  should come through its essential modernisation, which will improve the standard of living of the citizen in the place where they live and work.

Implementing the reform so that there is a real decentralisation of powers and their assumption by the local authorities is a significant task. Consultation between the municipalities and communities that merge and their participation is necessary to create the appropriate internal administrative structures, adapted to local needs and new requirements, and ensure effective management.

The common affairs management councils have a lot of work to do as they are responsible for drawing up and approving the organisational chart and staffing of each new municipality and preparing all matters related to its organisation and operation. Their obligation is to provide common services to the citizens, but also to deal with every issue related to the transition period.

The large number of communities scattered across rural areas can contribute to decentralisation and reform, by voluntarily merging with the newly established municipalities or neighbouring communities, creating the possibility of their evolution into a municipality in the future.

Their participation in community service clusters and their cooperation with other local authorities would contribute to the administration of local affairs and providing quality services to their residents. Economically weaker communities are entitled to financial support in the context of the equalisation mechanism for economic sustainability.

A strong and modernised local government will create strong municipalities, which will be led by elected heads with the ability to exercise the executive power of each municipality. Administration of all local affairs with elected councils, on a larger scale and with a larger population, with  transparency, accountability and the expected participation of the citizens, will be demanding and calls for strong mayors.

 

George Coucounis is a lawyer practicing in Larnaca and the founder of GEORGE COUCOUNIS LLC, Advocates & Legal Consultants, www.coucounis.law, [email protected]

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