NEWS

Local authorities cutting back

Municipalities across the country are reporting major cutbacks in spending just a few weeks before scheduled local authority elections on November 7. Employees’ salaries and annual functions and festivals have been the first to go under the knife, while efforts are being made to maintain social welfare programs. Some local authorities claim to have sold real estate, others to have reduced the number of hours that their employees are paid overtime, while others still say they have trimmed the funds that go toward maintaining local schools. There are reportedly a few exceptions – local authorities that have not got into debt and have not been obliged to make any cuts. But all the country’s municipalities will be affected by the cuts outlined in the three-year budget drafted by the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. The 14 billion euros the government originally had earmarked for local authorities over the next three years will be cut by 6 billion euros. «After the elections, it will be difficult for us to pay salaries and it is unavoidable that some infrastructure projects will be affected,» said Yiannis Mouratoglou, who handles the finances of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE). Efforts are being made, however, to protect the social welfare system. «Some projects may be pulled but there’s no way we will cut social programs, which will be increasingly crucial for vulnerable citizens in the crisis,» Panagiotis Vassiliou, KEDKE’s general director, told Kathimerini. Athens’s Deputy Mayor for Finance Nikos Vafiadis said that City Hall’s coffers were 45 million euros poorer than last year but that cuts have been made only to supplies, employees’ overtime and official functions. «We have not cut from social welfare programs but have tried to boost our revenues,» he said. Glyfada Mayor Ioannis Theodoropoulos struck a similar note. «We can hardly cut from retirement homes or day-care centers,» he said.