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Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, Portia Simpson-Miller has emphasised the importance of Parish Councils adopting “modern customer care standards”, so as to maintain a satisfied client base.
Speaking at the official re-opening of the Manchester Parish Council chambers in Mandeville (MPC), which was refurbished at a cost of $45 million, Mrs. Simpson-Miller noted that without an input coming from satisfied customers, the process of local government reform would remain at a stand still.
“Buildings, such as this new council, cannot come to life by themselves and are not as important as is the broad base participation of the citizenry that will bring about change. This is where we are going with the reform process,” she said.
Mrs. Simpson-Miller stressed that it was “high time” for parish councils to become much more “open”.
“I feel that the time has come for us to be more transparent. We cannot be calling for accountability in some sectors of government. This call must apply to all areas,” she said.
The Minister encouraged all duly constituted local authorities to take the initiative and to lead by example.
“If we are serious about the reform, as can be indicated by this new building, which is as a result of the Parish Infrastructure Development Programme (PIDP), then we have to have the active participation of the people who should be at the centre of everything we do,” she said.
Mrs. Simpson-Miller said that the design of the new chambers of the Manchester Council would serve as the template for similar developments across the island.
“The citizens of Manchester are deserving of conducting their business in an atmosphere of not only a beautifully refurbished building, but also one that has a customer friendly staff. I want to say to the staff, continue to offer the best quality service that you can,” she said.
In his remarks, Mayor of Mandeville, Councillor Desmond Harrison thanked the Ministry and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the support given to Manchester under the PIDP.
“Several ways in which we have benefited include the repair of over 14 kilometres of parish council roads.and of course this chamber,” the Mayor said.
Councillor Harrison pointed out that there were a number of other entities that had partnered with the Manchester Parish Council.
“Organisations, such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), have helped with staff training, which by extension has meant that we are able to do much more to improve the lives of citizens in the parish,” he said.
The Mayor pointed out that the Council was on the right path in relation to the collection of revenue.
“For example, in the fiscal year 2003/04 we increased our collection by 50 per cent, moving from $20 million in 2002/03 to $30 million. We were able to rehabilitate some 5,933 kilometres of roads and patch some 16,100 kilometres,” he said.