Current Affairs

Current Affairs




The policy guiding local government reform
Jamaica Observer
Sunday, February 09, 2003

Local Government Minister Portia Simpson Miller last week tabled in the House a ministry paper outlining her administration's local government reform policy.
Today, we publish highlights of her presentation.

The Vision
The vision is the creation and establishment of a new ramework of governance for the management of the modern Jamaican society, with the following features:
. Participatory: It will create the space for our citizens to become involved in the affairs of their communities as a right, thereby establishing a firm and transparent basis upon which our societal arrangements may be made to flourish.
. Autonomy: There would be a clear defining line between the roles of central government and local government.
. Accountability: The citizens themselves would constitute a mechanism to ensure efficiency in the use of financial and other resources that are available to address the economic and social development of specific localities.
. Developmental: It will facilitate a process of development that makes for the creation of wealth and the reduction of poverty.
. Empowerment: It will empower citizens and communities to take responsibility for the management of their economic, health, educational, cultural and recreational needs.
The policy objective
The objective of the policy is the implementation of mechanisms to ensure the effective delivery of service to the citizens of the communities on a financially sustainable basis with the active involvement and participation of the citizens in keeping with the vision.

The policy provisions
The ministry paper proposes five (5) policy provisions:
1 Requires the local authority to create municipal management mechanisms to provide more effective management for discrete urban and rural areas (development areas) that have emerged over time within parishes across the country. These mechanisms would reflect, but not be limited to, one of the following forms and would be established based on the approval of the respective local authority.

1.1 Municipal status
1.1.1 Municipality conferred by way of amendment to the Parish Councils Act to give the minister authority to approve the establishment of a municipal corporation for a specifically designed area, subject to affirmative resolution in Parliament.
1.1.2 The minister would act on a petition from the citizens of the area that has been endorsed by the local authority.
1.1.3 The instrument effecting the establishment would be a Municipal Charter, which would contain the rights, powers, duties and rules regarding the composition and operations of the municipality.
1.1.4 The municipality would be governed by a Municipal Council which shall be composed of the following: A mayor, who shall be directly elected from the eligible voters who appear on the list of registered voters of all polling divisions, which fall within the approved boundaries of the municipality. The mayor shall not represent any individual electoral division. A deputy mayor, who shall be elected from among and by the councillors who comprise the Municipal Council. The mayor and councillors shall be registered voters who are eligible to vote in the municipality.

1.2. Town and area councils
1.2.1 Establishment of Standing Committees of the Councils by way of resolution (As per city council procedure).

1.3 Business improvement districts
1.3.1 Establishment of structures to manage business improvement districts and designated Special Improvement Districts (SIDs).
2. Specific definition and rationalisation of the roles and functions of central government and local government. This includes the establishment of clear rules of engagement and co-ordination between the two.
3. The establishment of dedicated financial resources to support the work of the local authorities. This will include the specific commitment of central government and the conditions that would trigger that support.
3.1 Dedicated resource Base
3.1.1 Property taxes
3.1.2 Motor vehicle licence fees
3.1.3 Local rates
3.1.4 Trade and spirit licence fees
3.1.5 Building and sub-division approval fees
3.1.6 Fees from other regulatory functions
3.1.7 Municipal bonds

3.2 Central government grant mechanisms - Example: Capital grant for public cleansing, fire brigade, welfare-related grants, etc.
4 All the management mechanisms must create space for the participation and representation of civil society on all local government structures.
4.1 Parish development committees.
4.2 Community development committees.
5 To initiate national discussions in order to determine whether the existing 13 local authorities should be rationalised or consolidated in response to the proposed new municipal structures and also in order to achieve economies of scale and greater efficiency.

Operational plan
1 Within 12 months, all local authorities will be required to develop a reform plan in accordance with the new policy guidelines. If this plan is not forthcoming from the local authority, at the expiration of the agreed time period, the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development & Sport reserves the right to intervene to establish such a plan.
2 Implement a pilot project of the municipality in Portmore in 2003.
3 Establish appropriate civil society mechanisms, inclusive of parish development committees, community development committees in the financial year 2003/4.
4 Restructure the ministry of Local Government, Community Development & Sport, within the financial year 2003/4, to:
a) Co-ordinate the Local Government Reform Process islandwide.
i) Reconstitution of the Local Government Reform Unit within the Ministry.
ii Re-establishment of a National Advisory Council on Local Government Reform

b) Facilitate islandwide consultants on the reforms, specifically the number of local government jurisdictions and their roles and functions.
c) Facilitate the definition of the roles and functions to be carried out within the sphere of local government.
d) Facilitate the capacity development of local authorities.

Refocus the Parish Infrastructure Development Programme (PIDP) to ensure that the infrastructure projects help to support the capacity development of local authorities and the civil society processes.
e) Facilitate the process to establish agreement with the Ministry of Finance on the financial framework to support the local government system.

5 The Ministry of Local Government, Community Development & Sport will evaluate this programme annually and the policy reviewed at the end of three years.