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Consultant on Local Government Reform, Keith Miller, has said that the reform process, which was launched 12 years ago, was alive and well and has been impacting positively on parish councils islandwide. He pointed out that the parish councils had greater autonomy and that leadership capabilities were more evident.
“The reform process has provided parish councils and local authorities with additional resources in terms of personnel. It has made changes to many laws to enable the councils to be more effective in managing the things they are responsible for. You can see the reform process in action in terms of the transformation of the councils, the greater respect and image of councillors and mayors.all of these and more are products of the reform process,” Mr. Miller told JIS News.
He was in attendance at the third in the series of four regional consultations, which was held at the Sunset Beach Resort in Montego Bay on January 24.
Representatives of parish councils, the Social Development Commission (SDC) and other local authorities from the parishes of St. James, Hanover, Trelawny and Westmoreland participated in the consultation, which entailed indepth discussions on the National Advisory Council (NAC) Report.
Mr. Miller pointed out that the parish councils across the island have assumed much greater vigour in managing their local affairs, in ensuring that there was greater public order, in addressing many of the issues affecting the various localities, the parishes and the city, stressing that all these were results of the reform. “Prior to the reform process, parish councils had been reduced to very little and had no resources and all these have changed for the better,” he noted. He explained that the consultations were aimed at looking at the NAC Report, which is designed to provide the necessary answers and guidelines to shape the way forward. “We are here at this consultation to give the stakeholders the opportunity to make their own inputs into the findings of the NAC Report . which is an interim document, so as to ensure that their points of view and interests are fully taken into account in coming up with a final document,” Mr. Miller told JIS News.
Meanwhile, former Mayor of Montego Bay, Shalman Scott expressed the view that the work of local government reform has “progressed very satisfactorily”. He pointed out that the draft NAC report had been submitted to both Houses of Parliament, with the four Task Forces making some recommendations, such as: the Local Government System should now be entrenched in the Constitution of the country; that the resources from the parishes be retained for the benefit of the effective administration of the parish; and the institutionalization of the participation of citizens in a broader way, so that people could have a say in the administration and running of their parish.
“The local government programme clearly will be strengthened by the recommendations that have been made and that strengthening of the local government system, which is the bedrock of our democracy, can only work to the advancement of the plans and programmes that we have as a people to move the country forward in terms of economic viability and social harmony,” Mr. Scott said.