Lawmakers on Monday vented their frustration at the government for bringing last-minute changes to legislation relating to the reform of local government, as the new system of governance is set to kick in right after the elections.

MPs drew a line in the sand, accepting just two amendments to the relevant laws tabled by the interior ministry. For the rest of the proposed changes, said Akel’s Aristos Damianou, they would not take them to the plenum for a vote until after the local government elections taking place on June 9.

Whereas parliamentarians agree that the changes – which have to do with the workings of the new system of local government – are necessary, they are irritated with the administration for introducing them this late.

According to Damianou, who chairs the House interior affairs committee, MPs have agreed to forward to the upcoming plenary session only two government amendments. The first concerns a transitional arrangement, allowing the District Self-Governance Organisations – to be created under the new system – to approve their own budgets along with the government, without requiring the nod from parliament. This transitional arrangement would apply for six months.

The second government bill relates to appointments of the individuals heading up various local government services, for a limited time until normal appointment procedures are passed.

All other pending matters would be discussed right after the elections of June 9, said Damianou.

Under the new governance system, the issuing of permits for land development will be transferred from the 30 existing municipalities to the five District Self-Governance Organisations. The government recently tabled a bill where the municipalities should stop accepting permit applications between June 7 to July 1. This was to give time to current employees dealing with permits to be formally transferred to the District Self-Governance Organisations.

The government likewise wanted MPs to fast-track this bill. But legislators refused, arguing that suspending the filing of applications would deal a blow to the economy. They instead counter-proposed that municipalities continue accepting such applications from June 7 to July 1, but keep them on file without processing them.

Disy MP Nikos Sykas said there are already some 40,000 pending permit applications as it is.

Overall, parliamentarians are disappointed with the government for waiting until the last moment to bring legislation to the House. Sykas mentioned, for example, that even this week the cabinet will be approving more bills relating to the new system of local government.

Under the new system, five District Self-Governance Organisations – or district councils – will be created. The existing sewerage councils, water supply councils, solid waste management and urban planning authorities, will all be merged at the district level.

At the moment, whenever someone wants a land division permit or to make amendments to their house, they have to go through the rigmarole – visit the district officer, then town planning authorities, then other services. This will stop under the new streamlined system with the concentration of powers.