LONDON – Mayor of Port Maria, His Worship Richard Creary has said that Jamaican local authorities should be allowed to utilise more local state resources to kick-start local economies and improve the living standards of their citizens.
Councillor Creary, who participated in the Commonwealth Local Government Conference in Wales from March 15 to 18, said Jamaican parish councils should adopt best practices from across some leading Commonwealth countries, which would allow councils to use state assets in development programmes at the community and parish levels.
Speaking with JIS News in London en route to Jamaica, Councillor Creary said current local government reform in Jamaica was, for the most part, in line with standards across the Commonwealth, but stressed the need for councils to be given more autonomy and become more centrally involved in decisions on the utilisation of local assets.
Using the parish of St. Mary as an example, Councillor Creary said: “We have to lobby Central Government to initiate more changes under local government reform. In St. Mary, we have to examine the handing over of lands to encourage more development. In terms of heritage tourism in St. Mary, we have a host of historical sites to capatalise on. We have to seek to make more productive lands available for local development and I think this policy could be adopted across the country,” he said.
He said there were proposals on the table to establish a scheme similar to the Constituency Development Fund to be named the ‘Divisional Component Fund’. It would be made available to councillors to fund projects in their divisions. He said the Fund would be monitored at the local level by all the people's representatives in that area, to ensure that it is wisely used to enhance the overall economies and living standard of the people at the local level.
Councillor Creary said the sessions in Cardiff (Wales), allowed for the local government representatives from the Commonwealth to be exposed to best practices, aimed at energising local economies while showing the participants how to best promote local government policies. It also allowed for first-hand experience of how some local authorities in Wales operate, as they visited several agencies.
“We will have challenges, as some of the experiences and ideas are at first world level but basically what I see is that central government needs to pass on more autonomy to local government. We will engage in a concentrated lobby to effect the changes that will make local government more meaningful and effective for people at the parish and community levels,” he said.
At the meeting, Minister with responsibility for Local Government, Robert Montaque was re-elected as a Board member of the Commonwealth Local Government Leaders Forum.
By ANDREW CLUNIS