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State Minister with responsibility for Local Government Reform in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, has called on Parish Councils to be more assertive in executing their duties and responsibilities.
Mr. Montague, who was addressing a meeting at the Manchester Parish Council in Mandeville, recently, said that Councils must take a more critical role in disaster preparedness and management planning.
“The Council is the first point of call in terms of disaster preparedness so nobody should stand in a Council meeting and tell you, you are spectators in the process; you own the process. The Mayor is the co-chair of the Parish Disaster Committee so that the Council and the Councillors are integral to the preparation, to the management, and the cleaning up after a disaster, because the Council has that responsibility by law.
“Other agencies are brought into the process as shareholders and as partners, but what you find happening is that everybody tries to overrun the Council, and the Council unwittingly sits down on their hands and allow every agency to push you in a corner and blame you for everything, but the Council gets credit for nothing and, therefore, the Council needs to be more assertive as an institution,” he stated.
The State Minister said that Councils also have to be more aggressive in co-ordinating planning for infrastructure development activities.
“Entities such as the National Water Commission and Jamaica Public Service Company, need to inform the Parish Council when they will be carrying out infrastructure work, and likewise, the Parish Council is to advise these entities when they too will be conducting same,” he said, noting that affected communities must also be informed of these projects.
If entities are reluctant or fail to meet with the Parish Council when summoned to do so, then the matter must be reported to the Local Government Department. “The Council must bring the agencies into this room and if they do not want to come, you need to let us know. The Prime Minister has been proactive in that regard, so we are seeking your co-operation in that matter,” he stated.
As it relates to the Local Government Reform process, Mr. Montague informed that the date for the full implementation of the reforms had been pushed to June 2010 to provide the opportunity for “wider consultation as there may be new and innovative ideas going forward.”
The extended date, he said, would also “give us more time to look at some of the issues that are affecting Councillors because the way in which the people want Councillors to operate is different from what is codified.”
The Mandeville meeting was part of a series of ‘A Day In Council’ visits by Mr. Montague to local authorities across the island.