Mayors and local authorities continued debating on Friday the pros and cons of a major reform plan to restructure the island’s 40-odd municipalities into just five.
“Such a reform would be contrary to our role as the public authority closest to its citizens,” said Limassol’s popular mayor and former Interior Minister Andreas Christou.
“There are many issues that ordinary people come to us to be resolved, which usually cannot be handled by the public service or the huge government machine,” he told the state radio CyBC.
Others, however, contend that merging vital services would help slash municipal costs, with almost all mayors suffering with a budget deficit.
The Ministry of Interior commissioned the UK’s National School of Government International (NSGI) to find ways to turn local administration more efficient through restructuring and, possibly, downsizing.
The Ministry said it will launch a consultation process with all stakeholders and political parties to discuss the proposed reforms that should be implemented by June as part of the terms of a 10 bln euro bailout for Cyprus from the Troika of international lenders.
Civil Service Reform Commissioner Emanouela Lambrianides-Mousioutta said that the NSGI experts propose the creation of five local authorities to the cover the island’s five districts, a system that would replace the current system of 39 municipalities.
Another option is to create a single authority in each city, while smaller communities should be merged to form local authorities or councils in rural areas.
A third option suggests large scale clustering of existing municipalities and communities to deliver services to generate greater economies of scale.
"The experts point out that the current system is no longer sustainable," Lambrianides said, adding that the government also shares this assessment.
"They propose the setting up of viable and competent governance structures which could cope with the challenges that lie ahead and to assume additional responsibilities to implement the philosophy envisaged by the government, that the decisions taken affecting the citizen should directly take into account its particular needs," she added.
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