Cyprus entering new era, Interior Minister says about local government reform

Cyprus is entering a new era, Interior Minister Konstantinos Ioannou has said.

He was speaking on 1 July, the day when the local government reform entered into force. Ioannou said this was an “historic day”, noting that after decades of discussions the local government reform would reshape the administrative map of Cyprus with the aim of improving citizens’ daily lives.

During a press conference, Ioannou, said that the country was moving “from theory to practice”, leading Cypriot society to a new form of self-government, more improved compared to the previous one, and one that is expected “to yield multiple benefits in the medium term for the quality of life of our fellow citizens”.

The Minister said that they expect difficulties in the first months of the implementation of the reform until everyone, the citizens, the state and the local government bodies become familiar with the new procedures but noted that all the agencies involved were “fully committed to responding immediately, so that we overcome any difficulties, without affecting the smooth operation of the new system”.

He reminded those attending the press conference that at municipal level, 63 communities and 30 municipalities are merging and creating 20 new local government authorities, “with the long-term goal of achieving their administrative and financial autonomy, as well as economies of scale through savings”. The modernisation of the way municipalities operate was the main objective, to be able to respond to citizens’ ever-changing needs, he said.

The local government reform is expected to be beneficial also at community level, with the clustering of services, he added, while at district level, the district organisations of local government and the transfer to them of the responsibility of licensing developments were the Ministry’s “biggest bets”. Until 30 June, 10 urban planning and 36 building authorities were operating under three different organisations, in the Department of Urban Planning and Housing, in the municipalities and the District Administrations. The staffing problems these organisations were experiencing, combined with the different procedures followed by each authority, led to significant problems and, by extension, long delays in the issuance of permits, he added.

He expressed the belief that bringing together the existing staff of these organisations working in these departments and new staff already hired under a single organisation, and the integration of planning and building permit processes under one Agency, would lead to improved results in the medium term after a transitional period, since the staff will work collectively, streamlining the process of handling the examination of applications.

Ioannou also referred to the digital transition from 1 July as regards the submission and examination of all town planning and building permits through the "IPPODAMOS" system.

(Source: CNA)

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