Municipalities resist reforms

An ambitious plan to redraw administrative boundaries and overhaul local government, which has already led to one mayor protesting by going on hunger strike, met with more opposition yesterday. The government has initiated a process of public consultation with local officials before tabling its plan, known as Kallikratis, in Parliament. But there was substantial objection to the scheme when it was debated yesterday at a meeting of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE). Although it was mostly officials who are affiliated to the opposition parties that said they were against Kallikratis, their stance created more obstacles for the government at a time when it must also pass tough austerity measures. Although Kallikratis is not designed to be a cost-cutting exercise, it is estimated that it will save close to 2 billion euros and the merging of some local authorities will inevitably lead to job losses. KEDKE asked the government to allow more time for discussion, especially so that the issue of job cuts could be debated further. «No employees will be fired from municipalities,» said KEDKE president and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis. «As far as saving the money that the Interior Minister [Yiannis Ragousis] believes will be saved from reducing the number of workers, this will amount to just 100 million euros, not 2 billion.» Although it has many aspects, the main element to Kallikratis is the plan to do away with the 76 prefectures that currently span the country and replace them with 13 larger regions. Similarly, 1,034 municipalities will be whittled down to less than 370. The mayor of Elliniko in southern Athens, Christos Kortzidis, was on the fifth day of a hunger strike yesterday in protest at the changes proposed by Kallikratis. Meanwhile, some municipalities, such as Aghios Ioannis Rentis in southwestern Athens, are planning to hold a vote on whether they agree to be merged with neighboring districts.

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