- Development of the “long awaited” proposed strategic laws for reformed local governance process has been completed.
- The Kingston and St. Andrew, Parish Council, and Municipalities Acts are to be joined into one legislation - the Local Governance Act.
- Enactment of the Local Government Financing and Financial Management, and Local Government Unified Services and Employment Acts, are also being put forward.
Cabinet is expected to receive a draft of proposed amendments to legislation governing parish council operations from Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Noel Arscott, shortly.
The Minister, who made the disclosure at a Social Development Commission (SDC) community conference in Mandeville, Manchester, on October 2, said development of the “long awaited” proposed strategic laws for reformed local governance process has been completed.
He informed that the reform process being pursued entails proposed amalgamation of the Kingston and St. Andrew, Parish Council, and Municipalities Acts into one legislation – the Local Governance Act.
Enactment of the Local Government Financing and Financial Management, and Local Government Unified Services and Employment Acts, are also being put forward.
These, the Minister explained, are intended to equip the local authorities with greater autonomy and responsibility to administer their affairs. They are also intended to formalize the involvement of organizations, such as parish and community development committees in the local governance process.
Mr. Arscott advised that “consensus” has been reached among all stakeholders with whom the Ministry had consultations, consequent on a review of aspects of the provisions.
These, he informed, include: introducing shared services, such as accounting and engineering, “because there is a realization that the capacity for certain technical services does not reside in each (or some) parish council(s).”
The Minister explained that once Cabinet approves the submission, drafting instructions will be issued to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to initiate the enactment process, subject to parliamentary deliberations.
While noting that successive administrations have been “working assiduously” on local government reform for upwards of two decades, Mr. Arscott pointed out that it is a “very complex” process relating to all 14 parish councils, and involving “hundreds of laws, dating way back.”
Mr. Arscott said in pursuing the local government reform process, the Government, through the Ministry, has been in discussion with South Africa’s Ministry of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the matter.
Part of this process entailed a visit that country by him earlier this year for discussions with Minister Lechesa Tsenoli, who in turn came to Jamaica last month.
“We are trying to partner with them (South Africa), because they are already advanced in terms of their local government reform (process). So, we are now sharing information and looking at best practices, so (that) we can learn from them,” the Minister said.
Mr. Arscott said he hopes to have the proposals tabled in Parliament within a few weeks, once they are approved by Cabinet and passed on to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
The meeting, held under the theme: ‘The Governance Framework: The Pathway to Local Economic Development’, is the first of 12 community development committee conferences slated to be staged by the Social Development Commission (SDC), between October and November.
The conferences are being held to heighten participants’ knowledge of the importance of local governance and its processes; and the link between governance and economic development, among other matters. The National Association of Parish Development Committees (NAPDEC) and National Integrity Action (NIA) have partnered with the SDC to stage the conferences.
A major outcome is increased public advocacy for timely passage of the revised local governance legislation through a petition which will be circulated islandwide to facilitate Community Development Committee (CDC) executives signing the document. This is currently being done in Manchester.
The petition will be presented to Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, after all stakeholders have signed it.