By Nikolaos Prakas and Andria Kades

Opposition Akel shot down the government’s comments on local government reform, saying on Monday they were mistimed, unnecessary and damaging to the initiative.

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou opened a can of worms last week when he said local government reform the government is tasked to implement by July 1 is not viable and will be far more costly than it should be.

As such, the idea of financial savings that are set to come with the reform fall flat, he argued.

The minister said parliament’s amendments to the bill were not made on the basis of technocratic and financial ideas but “other criteria”.

Amid criticism from the political sphere, Christodoulides on Sunday said the government was tasked to implement what parliament had created.

Do we really need that many deputy mayors? Do we? Parliament voted for this,” an evidently irked Christodoulides told reporters.

“We tried to make changes before we got here but parliament did not have a positive reaction. As such, we are moving forward to implement this important reform. It has to happen.”

Commenting on the president’s remarks on Monday, the head of the House interior committee and Akel MP Aristos Damianou said Christodoulides’ remarks were mistimed and damaging to the endeavour of reforming local government.

He also questioned whether Christodoulides had been informed by his interior minister about the reforms.

“By the way, does the president who complains about Akamas know where the District Government Organisation will be housed in the Famagusta district? Has he been informed by his minister on the political impasse that the attempt to implement the laws with the increased right to allocate seats in Ayia Napa has reached?”

Damianou added that they have been waiting for nine months in the parliament for laws that will implement the local government reform from the interior ministry.

“The parliament votes for bills and does not implement them,” he said.

He called on the government and all the other local authorities involved to take the blame for the delays in implementing the local government reform.

On Sunday, Christodoulides said the existing form of local government reform is certainly not viable, after he and Ioannou came under fire for the impending contentious change.

Asked to comment over the mounting criticism, Christodoulides threw his weight behind Ioannou, telling reporters: “The interior minister is absolutely right over what he said.”

Christodoulides hit back over a suggestion that his government was described as “one of observers and commentators” rather than problem-solving.

He also said the government “will not hesitate to make any changes, on the basis of the challenges which will emerge”.

The president also said that “as we approach the elections, we should be particularly careful, the government in particular, so as not to get embroiled in discussions that aim to serve personal and party interests.”

Ioannou said municipalities such as Polis Chrysochou are slated to have 14 deputy mayors, questioning whether this many were necessary – with Christodoulides supporting him.

The total wages of the deputy mayors amount to €2.3 million, which Ioannou described as an overcompensation.

Political parties such as Disy and Akel, along with parliament, have slammed the minister’s statements saying he was trying to shift the blame.