The row over local government reform continued on Tuesday, as Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the current law is not ideal and will create unequal benefits for citizens.

“We want to be honest with the public and we are duty-bound to be transparent about the problems. We have to tell people that some citizens will not have the same reform benefits in certain local governments as others,” he said.

But he added that the “current setup of the reform which was voted through is not ideal, but it is much better than what we have now.”

For example, certain municipal mergers were decided on “without taking into account the geographic, financial and demographic data.

“This creates a problem, because some municipalities will not be able to offer the same services and have the same benefits from the reform. As such, they will not be as sustainable as other municipalities.”

‘Diko was not blind sided’

Former Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides also chimed in, saying Diko was the party that proposed the most amendments which “altered the philosophy of the reform.”

Diko party leader Nicolas Papadopoulos managed to anger the existing government as well as two former interior ministers – Petrides and Nicos Nouris – when he said political parties may have been “misled” by the previous government.

“We were promised significant savings” with the reform, he posted on X but concerns aired by Ioannou that many local authorities will not be financially viable “raise a serious political issue”, Papadopoulos said last week.

Petrides said “we explained everything to him in his office and publicly as well.” As such, suggestions that Papadopoulos was not in the know cannot be acceptable.

“The majority of amendments which changed the reform and the cost came from Diko.”

‘Better than nothing’

Petrides also said that although it is not perfect the new system is still better than what currently exists.

“At the moment we have 380 local authorities. This will go down to 52,” Petrides said.

Ioannou nonetheless sought to assure that the government was determined to go through with the reform.

He said he has a meeting in the next few days with the chairman of the House interior committee, Akel MP Aristos Damianou “to discuss the problems. Parliament is willing to do so.”

Nonetheless, Ioannou underlined that it is the local authorities and mayors that must implement the reform. “It is not the interior ministry.”

He stressed however that “at the end of the day, this reform has to begin with the least amount of problems.”

Seeking to send a message of some form of optimism, Ioannou said he had headed the biggest reform that ever happened: Gesy.

“Three months before Gesy began, we did not have a single pediatrician in Gesy. We had problems, we’re improving them.”

President Nikos Christodoulides also showed his support for Ioannou over the weekend, when he said there was no doubt that some municipalities would not be viable.

Do we really need that many deputy mayors? Do we?,” he asked, “Parliament voted for this.”