Secretary Manager of the St. Catherine Parish Council, Christopher Powell, has said that the Local Government reform process has brought a number of changes over the years, which have improved the condition of councillors, while enhancing the operations of councils.
He was responding to criticisms from councillors at a recent meeting of the St. Catherine Parish Council in Spanish Town about the lack of reform of the local government system.
Mr. Powell, while acknowledging the need for the process to be accelerated, said there have been a number of significant accomplishments over the years, which have been central to the operations of parish councils.
“In 1993, councillors came to meetings and only got a stipend. Under reform, you now have a salary. In 1996 there was no money to patch roads and clean drains. The creation of the Parochial Revenue Fund that is reform. The creation of the Parish Development Committee for civil societies to be engaged, the opening of the community system of councils… that is reform,” he stated.
Mr. Powell told councillors that it was a bit disheartening to hear them constantly say “there is no reform” when there were changes occurring all the time.
“You present councillors, who sit here, are a reflection of reform. Reform is ongoing and if you are honest to yourselves, you will recognise the tremendous strides that have been made over the last 15 years,” he stated.
Councillor Shane Dalling of the Westchester division of the Portmore Municipal Council, pointed to the need for councillors to have properly equipped offices to meet with their constituents to ensure effective representation.
“In order to give better representation in this local government reform, we must look at this aspect. They (councillors) have to be using personal resources to carry out the function of the state and in order to look at local government reform, these things have to be looked at,” he stated.
Mr. Powell called on councillors to exercise a little more patience as legislation is being drafted to entrench Local Government Reform into the Jamaican constitution.
“The policy document has been prepared to merge the three acts – the Municipalities Act, the KSAC (Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation) Act and the Parish Council Act, to create one Local Government Act. Also to reform the Parish Council Services Commission and in turn (address) the financing arrangements for local authorities,” he stated.
Councillors attending the sitting accepted that there were indeed changes being implemented under the reform process.
They noted, however, that perhaps the process was moving a bit too slow and possibly, what needed to be done, was to put firm time lines in place to measure the change more effectively.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO