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Interior minister blasts local government reform

cypriot interior minister ioannou speaks during an interview with reuters at his office in nicosia
Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou

Local government reform has been grossly distorted by parliamentary amendments and is now rife with failures that will come with hefty costs across different municipalities, Interior Minister Constantinou Ioannou said.

His comments sparked fury on Friday, introducing a rare show of solidarity between political parties across the political spectrum.

Parliament itself issued a statement – ostensibly by House President Annita Demetriou – saying Ioannou’s comments were highly inflammatory and scuppered efforts to introduce the much-touted local government reform, which is slated to come into force on July 1.

Almost €3,000 salary

Ioannou voiced concern over the salaries deputy mayors are expected to receive, which range from €717 and reach €2,987 per month.

In his interview with Phileleftheros, Ioannou said the annual cost amounts to €2.3 million.

As such, the minister said many municipalities will not be sustainable as they are only joining a small number of communities. This includes for instance the municipalities of Strovolos, Ypsonas, Kato Polemidia, Athienou, Aradippou, Paralimni, Ayia Napa, Yeroskipou and Peyia.

Without the necessary population in each community, the financial benefits of the reform effectively fall flat, Ioannou underlined. The result is that some deputy mayors will be “overcompensated.”

He pointed squarely to parliament for this, saying amendments by lawmakers were done on the basis of “other criteria” rather than financial or technocratic matters.

‘Attempt to blame parliament’

Parliament’s statement said Ioannou’s comments were an “obvious attempt” to scupper the “monumental effort” made by all political parties to vote local government reform into law.

“Any inflammatory statement does not contribute anything but instead undermines the whole effort”.

Akel’s general secretary Stefanos Stefanou said the final version of the reform “is a result of compromise. But the interior ministry has no right to complain.”

He underlined that any issues should be corrected but this should be done with necessary seriousness.

Disy, also headed by Demetriou said “authorities should contribute positively and not undermine the entire effort.” Any problems should be collectively solved instead.

“Once again, the government is trying to shift responsibility to parliament.”

Diko said they had been assured by the previous government that the reform “would reap significant savings”. If this had been a ploy to sideline them, then this should be clarified immediately, it concluded.

Increased costs for the state

In October, the House audit committee highlighted the local authority reform would increase costs for the state but assured this was to be expected until everything falls into place.

Presenting the fiscal report for 2022, Cyprus’ accountant general Andreas Antoniades highlighted that in the first few years after local authority reform is implemented, costs will jump from €109 million to €118m in 2024.

In 2025 and 2026, the figure is expected to amount to €140m.

 

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