Intensive processes for the reform of Local Self-Government – The majority of local authorities are positive – The new organizational charts have been prepared – Actions that have been taken
Competent departments and services are working intensively on the reform of Local Government in Cyprus, the transition stage of which should be completed by March 31, 2024, two months before the local government elections of June 2024.
The transition period for the implementation of the reform began in May 2022 after the passing of the laws on communities, municipalities and provincial self-government organizations. Of the two new laws concerning municipalities and provincial organizations, only one article from each law concerning the institutions that will operate in the transitional stage came into force.
During the transition period, significant changes in personnel, financial and legislative matters should be implemented.
The Senior Administrative Officer at the Ministry of Interior dealing with reform issues, Kakia Dimitriou, told the Cyprus News Agency that work on the transition is well advanced, with many actions being taken at the local level by the temporary coordinating councils set up to prepare the operation of the new entities. He also noted that the Coordinating Council in Famagusta started to function normally after the legislative resolution of the obstacle that existed.
Local authorities are mostly positive
Regarding the way of dealing with the reform, Ms. Dimitriou stated that the local authorities in the vast majority cooperate and have realized the benefits of implementing the new legal framework. Accordingly, he said, and in the communities that will cooperate at the level of the service provision complex, in most cases there is a positive response. However, he stated that there are some reactions, objections, reservations and concerns from local authorities, but as he said, the Ministry speaks, explains, and where necessary the Minister of the Interior intervenes with the local authorities to reassure concerns, solve problems but also impose the cooperation.
Regarding informing the citizens about the reform, he mentioned that it is something that is scheduled to be done but has not started yet. Already for the provincial organizations, the temporary councils themselves are preparing a campaign to inform the world about the changes that will come regarding the change in services and taxation, while he said that this information will also be done by the local authorities and the Ministry of the Interior which already in the past ran a relevant campaign. He added that a specific sub-group in the Central Advisory Committee will soon deal with the issue.
Regarding the work of integrating the operating system, he said that the "Evagoras" software system is being prepared for the Municipalities and the information they have is that the project's implementation and delivery schedule is progressing normally.
In relation to the financial changes since the reform, he said that the state sponsorship to the Municipalities increases with the implementation of the reform, to 117 million euros per year and for the 20 municipalities from 72 million euros that it is now. For the communities the grant given for the 349 communities will remain the same, even though 63 of them are leaving and going to the municipalities, while there is the possibility of further increase.
The new organizational charts were prepared
Regarding personnel issues, Ms. Dimitriou noted that all the municipalities made a new organizational chart based on the template given to them and its approval by the Central Advisory Committee is pending, after the issue of the distribution of state funding is also locked. Organizational charts were prepared by all four Provincial Organizations and Famagusta is now also preparing them, with the aim of being examined in September. Standard organizational charts were made for the communities in collaboration with the Union of Communities. At the same time, he noted that the Ministry of the Interior is in constant contact with the trade unions on personnel matters.
He also mentioned that the staff of the Water Supply Boards and Sewerage Boards which are being abolished, will be transferred to the new Provincial Organisations.
Regarding the evaluation of the reform, even though there is no specific tool yet, Mrs. Dimitriou indicated that after the end of this transitional stage there will be an evaluation, also utilizing good practices that exist in other member states of the Council of Europe. What is currently planned, he said, is a project being carried out with the Council of Europe for an evaluation around the end of 2025 by their counterparts from other states.
Mrs. Dimitriou stated that an effort will be made to prepare as well as possible during the transition stage, so that as few problems as possible are faced during implementation.
"The prospects are to now create real local government, with economically viable local authorities that have the ability to really respond to the services that the citizen expects them to provide and to increase the range of services they provide to the citizen at the local level, that is, to bring the provision of services closer to the citizen", he said.
From the moment the laws were passed until today, various actions have been taken in the context of the reform, which is recorded in relevant presentations of the Ministry of the Interior. The Central Advisory Committee (CAC) began its work with several meetings and the issuance of several circulars. Working Groups were also established to analyze and address important issues such as structure, staffing and personnel, financial issues and budgeting, information systems, development licensing, training and change management, and communication and information. of the public.
In addition, temporary bodies such as Joint Affairs Management Councils and Interim Coordinating Councils have been created, which have adopted detailed timetables of actions.
The Working Group on Structure, Staffing and Personnel Issues undertook various actions, including the preparation and sending of a template Organization Chart for the new Municipalities and District Self-Government Organizations (EOAs). Also, it was agreed to work on the service plans with a completion date of March 2024 and model regulations on Pension Funds and Welfare Funds for Municipalities were prepared.
The Working Group on Economic Issues and the Budget created sub-groups to examine and improve the budget, taking into account the new International Accounting Standards for the public sector.
The Working Group for Information Systems decided to extend the IPPODAMOS system to the EOAs and is promoting its implementation. In addition, he undertook the development of the "EVAGORAS" system by all municipalities.
As regards the Working Group for Education and Change Management, the implementation of the Project "Implementation of Supporting Measures for the implementation of Local Government Reform in Cyprus" has begun, within the framework of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, with a budget of €840.000 (Jan. 2023-Jun 2025).
The Development Licensing Working Group undertook actions involving the organizational structure in collaboration with the Town Planning and Building Authorities. In addition, an analysis of statistical data from 10 Urban Planning and 36 Building Authorities for the previous 5 years was carried out, in order to record the staffing needs of the EOAs. The transfer of personnel through secondment or the conclusion of Agreements is also planned, while legislative provisions in need of amendment are also recorded.
Finally, the cooperation between the Ministries of the Interior of the Republic of Cyprus and the Hellenic Republic was strengthened with the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation which includes the exchange of opinions, know-how and experiences regarding the reform of Local Self-Government.