Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis is seen speaking at a recent conference in Athens. The Interior Ministry yesterday submitted a draft bill to Parliament which will pave the way for the merger of the country’s 1,034 municipal councils into 325 as part of the government’s efforts to cut spending and reduce its massive budget deficit. Prefectures will be shut down under the proposed law, which foresees broader changes to the local government map. The government expects to save 1.18 billion euros per year from the reduction in operating expenses and the more efficient use of existing resources. Staff levels will be slashed, with the 50,000 people presently employed at councils reduced to 25,000. Under the new legislation, mayors will serve five-year terms, as opposed to the current four years in office, and local government elections will be held to coincide with European Parliament polls, according to the draft bill presented yesterday.