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The government will promote legislation to limit deputy mayors from September

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Fears of creating a €12m hole next year which the Government will be called upon to cover – What other changes are being considered at the Home Office

Important changes in the legislation concerning the reform of Local Self-Government are expected to be promoted by the Government from September, which may concern both the number of officials and the number of municipalities. Financing issues for the new entities are also expected to be raised immediately, in order to address specific problems arising from the implementation of existing legislation.

According to information from the Ministry of the Interior, the intention is to start the discussion on the changes since September and on this subject the Minister is already in consultation with MPs.

An important issue that is expected to be dealt with immediately concerns legislation passed by the Parliament and provides that 60% of the revenues from the licenses to the Provincial Self-Governing Organizations (EOA) will go as sponsorship to the Municipalities. The specific legislation was passed on the grounds that the Municipalities have the obligation to build the infrastructure for the developments in their territory and for this reason they need revenue. However, according to the balanced budgets of the EOAs for 2024, revenues and expenses amount to an average of €20. per euro, which however will not apply with the implementation of the 60% legislation. If the law is implemented as it is, it is expected to create a hole of approximately €12 million next year which the Government will be asked to cover.

For these reasons and in the context of the financial and administrative autonomy that must to govern the new Organizations, an amendment to the legislation is expected to be promoted immediately. Sources of the Ministry of the Interior believe that the legislation should be amended so that the amount given to the Municipalities by the EOAs is fixed and not a percentage of their revenues.

Other changes expected to be promoted concern the number of Municipalities and officials. As the Minister of the Interior Konstantinos Ioannou has stated in the past, the reform as it has passed is not ideal and the legislation needs improvement.

A key change that will be promoted, according to information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, concerns the number and responsibilities of deputy mayors. In this context, it is considered that 93 Deputy Mayors cannot remain and that their number must be limited according to the number of residents of their apartments. The positions of deputy mayors, which have a total cost of €2 billion per year, also do not provide for defined responsibilities. Any responsibilities are assigned to the Deputy Mayors by the Mayor. The direction that exists is to better define the responsibilities of the Deputy Mayors in the legislation, along with reducing their number.

It is also possible to open the debate on further reducing the number of Municipalities, resulting from the reform. Indicatively, it is mentioned that some municipalities such as that of Strovolos and Paphos have not merged with any other municipality, which limits any benefits that can be obtained from the mergers of the Municipalities and the creation of economies of scale.

However, any changes are finally approved regarding the number of municipalities and officials, they will be implemented from the next five years.

No delays are expected with development permits

Despite the difficulties and problems that are expected to exist in the first steps of the reform that will be implemented from July 1, sources at the Ministry of the Interior assure that there will be no delay with the licensing of the development.

It is expected that the co-housing of the three existing Licensing Authorities under one umbrella will have improved results in the medium term and after the first transition period. Staff will work collaboratively and the application process will be streamlined, without delay

There are currently around 35,000 planning and building applications pending and there has been an increase in applications over the past five months due to concern about the changes that the reform would bring about. Also according to information, in the last five months some Municipalities had stopped examining applications pending the reform.

However, the timely staffing with the hiring of 85 permanent employees since February, brought an increased processing of applications to the provincial offices of the Department of Urban Planning. Specifically, during the first five months of 2024, 4,239 urban planning applications were submitted and 5,256 were processed, reducing the pending cases by 1,017.

Almost everyone involved in licensing has already been seconded to the EOAs to contribute to the launch of the new organizations from 1 July. Thus, the EOAs, in terms of licensing, will start their operation with 30% more staff compared to the staff currently dealing with licensing. This staff has been properly trained while groups and branches were created in the areas of licensing and heads were appointed.

At the same time there was a simplification of the procedures with 22 measures, in order to speed things up. With the modifications that are already applied, substantial time savings and a reduction in delays have been recorded.

It is noted that from July 1st all applications will be submitted electronically through the “Ippodamos” system for which there has already been similar training.

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At the same time, the organizational charts of the five EOAs were approved and the draft Service Plans were prepared for most positions of the Organizations as well as the draft budgets for the 2nd semester of 2024.

As regards the Department of Urban Planning , it is expected to remain responsible for large and complex developments such as hospitals, universities and large infrastructure projects.

Source: politis.com.cy

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