Eleftheria Square, Nicosia

Municipal reform goes through with some hesitation

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Parliament voted through the long overdue package on municipal reforms on Thursday, reducing the number of town halls from 30 to 20, giving local authorities a greater say in town planning and licensing, while achieving economies of scale in public services.

The government, which postponed the December municipal elections to allow the three bills to go through, said the package will benefit the municipalities, which are also expected to become financially sustainable.

However, some mayors were unhappy with the final framework, while others criticised it outright, saying political scheming allowed some towns to remain intact.

The capital’s mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis welcomed the reforms, that will merge his town’s borders with Aghlandjia, Ayios Dhometios and Engomi, “with which there are similar characteristics, common demographics and socioeconomic challenges.”

“Unfortunately, despite the clear positions of myself and the Mayor of Strovolos, as well as expert opinions, other choices and priorities prevailed.”

He and his Strovolos counterpart, Andreas Papacharalambous, had said in the past that a single Nicosia metropolitan area would be preferrable, with local councils or departments.

Despite the initial view that both towns would merge, Strovolos remains intact. Lakatamia will absorb Tseri and the Anthoupolis community, Lastia will become one with Yeri, while the new South Nicosia Idalion municipality will incorporate Dhali, Nisou, Alambra, Lymbia, Pera Chorio and Potamia.

The new municipal framework will be implemented by May 2024 and there will be no referenda to approve the changes, while initial plans called for 18, even 15 new municipalities, as suggested in November 2019.

However, outspoken Paphos mayor Phedon Phedonos, who had sought to absorb Yeroskipou, was blunt.

“The political crimes planned by five politicians will haunt us for decades. When you implement reforms, you consider only one thing, the common good of your people and your country.”

“What resulted does not serve the public interest.”

Paphos with Yeroskipou won’t merge

Paphos town hall will remain intact. The three other new municipalities in the district include East Paphos with Yeroskipou absorbing the village communities of Ayia Marinouda, Acheleia, Konia and Timi (Paphos airport).

West Paphos will be centred around Peyia and will incorporate Akoursos, Ineia, Kathikas, Kato Arodhes, Pano Arodhes and Kissonerga, while at the norther coast of the district, Polis Chrysochous will merge with Ayia Marina, Androlikou, Argaka, Yialias, Dhroushia, Kritou terra, Makounta, Neo Chorio, Nea Dhimmata, Pelathousa, Pomos, Tera and Chrysochous.

In a post on Twitter, President Anastasiades welcomed the adoption of the local authorities reform and spoke of a “historic reform.”

“The municipalities’ self-sufficiency and economic sustainability safeguard the quality of services to all citizens,” President Anastasiades said.

In a statement, the Presidency said the reform was a necessity, and a prerequisite for Cyprus to qualify for the Recovery and Resilience Fund.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, who was present during the parliamentary debate, hailed the adoption of the reform which concluded following “a ten-year arduous process.” He noted that the implementation of the reform will not be easy.

The Interior Ministry said in an announcement that, “the new modern model of municipal administration is based on transparency and accountability, while the new responsibilities assigned to them enable them to manage the various problems more effectively.”

“At the same time, the creation of 30 local community cluster, each with a separate legal entity, significantly upgrades the ability to provide services in the countryside.”

Joint waste management

“Joint water supply – sewerage, solid waste management services are created, as well as a licensing service, one in each district.”

House Speaker Annita Demetriou said Thursday “was a historic day. Parliament voted on reforms that troubled us and Cypriot society in general for decades.”

Comments on social media criticised the large number of new municipalities, suggesting that political parties wanted to maintain mayoral seats. Some even said, “London has a population of 14 mln and just one mayor,” while another noted “New York is just one city”.

Limassol District will have four municipalities: Limassol (including Mesa Yitonia and Tserkezoi community); East Limassol (including Ayios Athanasios, Yermasoyia, Ayios Tychonas, Akrounta, Mathikoloni, Mouttayiaka, Phinikaria and Armenochori); Polemidhia, merging Kato and Ano Pelmidhia; and, West Limassol (Ypsonas, Akrotiri, Asomatos, Episkopi, Erimi, Kantou, Kolossi, Sotira and Trachoni).

Larnaca District will have five municipalities: Larnaca (including Livadhia and Voroklini); Aradippou (incorporating Kellia and Troulloi); Dromolaxia-Meneou (including Kiti, Pervolia and Tersefanou); Lefkara (merging with Kato Lefkara, Vavla, Kornos, Delikipos, Layia and Skarinou); and, Athienou, that will absorb Avdellero.

Famagusta District will have two municipalities: Ayia Napa (incorporating Sotira, Avgorou, Achna and Liopetri); and, Paralimni-Dherynia (including Acheritou and Frenaros).