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As part of the Local Government reform initiative, a revolving educational loan facility, valued at some $5 million, is being set up for staff of the Department of Local Government and Parish Councils.
Minister of State, with responsibility for Local Government, Robert Montague, said yesterday (Nov. 6) that the loan facility “will assist staff to upgrade their qualifications for appointments and will be of particular value to those needing to meet minimum qualifications. We are in a transition period and we are enabling the process to allow persons to make that transition too.”
He was speaking during the launch of November, as Local Government Month, under the theme: ‘Local Government Reform, putting governance in your hands’, at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
Meanwhile, Mr. Montague noted that the Department of Local Government is building a culture of strategic planning, as seen in the establishment of 20-year development plans for each parish. “While ensuring a healthy partnership between Central and Local Government, we are at the same time strengthening the autonomy of the local authorities,” the State Minister said.
He also noted that the expansion and return of some functions to the local authorities signal “our commitment to keeping Local Government local, close to the people and the issues that effect community development.”
Mr. Montague stated that councils are being encouraged to develop a strategy for arriving at priority programmes, improving service delivery and revenue base and engaging the Parish Development Committees (PDCs).
“Councils must think in terms of moving away from focussing on road repairs and rehabilitation and employ a strategic approach to planning. The strategic management sessions are now in progress and I implore councils to participate fully in these sessions,” the State Minister said.
On another matter, Mr. Montague informed that each local authority will benefit from a $500,000 allocation, to assist with signage in their respective parish with the exception of Kingston and St. Andrew, St. James and Portmore, which will each receive $1 million to effect, improvement in this “neglected and critical area.”
He also announced that the matter of parishes assuming municipal status is “still receiving active consideration”, as part of the reform process and National Advisory Council recommendation.
“To this end, I have commissioned a review of the Portmore model. This review is being undertaken through scientific polling. We are now in the process of conducting a citizen’s survey and hosting three town hall meetings. The procurement process is being applied to ensure compliance with Government procurement guidelines,” Mr. Montague said.
He added that two reports will be produced from these findings and the final outcome submitted by December 1, 2008.
“The finding will no doubt give us a better feel of the usefulness of this model and its ability for replication across councils,” the State Minister said.