Debate Begins on Bill to Entrench Local Government In Constitution

Story Highlights

  • Debate has started on the Constitution (Amendment) (Local Government) Act, which seeks to entrench local governance in the Constitution.
  • The legislation is in keeping with recommendations made in the August 1993 Report on the Constitution of Jamaica and the May 1995 final report of the Joint Select Committee of the Houses of Parliament on Constitutional and Electoral Reform.
  • Opening the debate on the Bill in the House on January 20, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, noted that this entire process is driven by putting the people at the centre of management of their own affairs.

Debate has started on the Constitution (Amendment) (Local Government) Act, which seeks to entrench local governance in the Constitution.

The legislation is in keeping with recommendations made in the August 1993 Report on the Constitution of Jamaica and the May 1995 final report of the Joint Select Committee of the Houses of Parliament on Constitutional and Electoral Reform.

The reports emphasised the need for certain public offices and institutions to be included in the Constitution of Jamaica.

Opening the debate on the Bill in the House on January 20, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, noted that this entire process is driven by putting the people at the centre of management of their own affairs.

“We have gone through many processes to get to this point. Many debates have been held and many studies undertaken. It has been a long period of gestation, but now at long last the tangible expression of Local Government Reform is being brought to term,” Mr. Arscott said.

He explained that the Bill proposes to entrench the system of Local Government in the Constitution of Jamaica.

“The changes proposed in this legislation are the best means of accommodating Local Government as an active functioning organ of development within the Constitution at this time,” the Minister said.

Under the legislation, local authorities are being given the ability to perform regulatory functions to facilitate the management, improvement and development of resources of local communities.

The Bill also allows Parliament to make provision for local authorities to generate and spend their own revenue, and to provide for the holding of Local Government elections.

“The above-mentioned Constitutional provisions will be given functional effect in the three strategic laws which are the fundamental planks to undergird Local Government Reform. These three laws are the Local Governance Bill; Local Government (Unified Service and Employment) Bill; and the Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) Bill,” Mr Arscott said.

He further noted that the Bills have been approved by Cabinet and are at an advanced stage in the drafting process at the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

In his remarks, Member of Parliament for South St. Catherine, Fitz Jackson, noted that the legislation will bring more certainty to the question of Local Government system in the country’s governance infrastructure.

“One of the virtues of our Local Government authority is that it brings the governance closer to the people. Our Councillors are closer as political representatives to the people and the challenges that they face on an everyday basis,” Mr. Jackson said.

For his part, Member of Parliament for South East St. Elizabeth, Richard Parchment, said the “time is long overdue for a properly constituted system of Local Government where, by law, the functions are predetermined, the nature is autonomous and election periods are known and not subject to frivolous manipulation.”

The debate on the legislation is set to continue at the next sitting of the House of Representatives on January 27.

 

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