JIS News

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Robert Montague, has said that the reform process is well on track, and that in early 2009, an aggressive public education campaign would be undertaken, to involve communities across the island.
“We are about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the Social Development Commission (SDC), to assist us in community mobilisation and community participation, because we will be strengthening the Parish Development Committees (PDC), as they will have to play a critical role in the development of the 20-year plans for each parish,” the State Minister told JIS News in an interview.
He added that the campaign would also help to “bring forward civil society to the process, to be members of the Sub-committees, to be members of the PDCs, to sit on the Parish Public Account Committees, and to sit on the Reform Committees, because we have now established these committees in the Council.”
Mr. Montague said that in terms of the legal framework, a draft concept paper on the new Local Authorities Act, has been completed. “That will now go through a period of consultations and then sent as a Cabinet submission, for drafting instructions to be issued,” he informed.
The State Minister pointed out that in terms of financial security and independence, “the position of the Government is that a slice of the national budget should be dedicated,” noting that the Prime Minister is now involved in the consultations, to determine what percentage of the budget should be committed to the process and what method would be used to distribute the funds to the parishes.
“We have just completed Phase Three of the training programme, where we have trained Councillors, Mayors and senior administrative staff. We are going to be training telephone operators, because they are now the first point of contact with the members of the public,” he said, adding that the municipal police members have also been trained, and were on the streets in every parish.
In addition, Mr. Montague pointed out that all Building Officers, Superintendents and Planners were trained in a workshop, and brought up to speed with the provisions of the code.
“We have completed what we can do on the building code. As a matter of fact, we are operating now since November, as if the building code was gazetted,” he said.
The State Minister reported that the Parish Councils are also up-to-date with their finances. “Some Councils were six years behind, they are now up-to-date. So, I think we are right on target, exactly where we want to be,” he said, adding that the Councillors’ handbook, which is a reference document, has also been completed.
The primary objective of Local Government Reform is to create a strong, viable and effective system of Local Government, which will deepen the democratic process and facilitate the empowerment of citizens, by enabling them to participate more fully and directly in the process of governance and in the management of their own affairs. November is also being celebrated as Local Government Month.

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