By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE government has hired consultants to help redraft the Local Government Act to give more power to Family Island councils, including greater ability to raise revenue.
This, according to Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Clay Sweeting yesterday, who said the local government regime needed a lot of change.
Mr Sweeting made the comments ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
“Local government in the Family Islands is lacking,” Mr Sweeting told reporters. “There are a lot of things that we need to change. We have had two consultants that are looking at the Local Government Act and how we can help raise the bar in local government in the Family Islands because they just become a holding fund to pay salaries and regular payments in the Family Islands and not really be transformative in that regard.
“So, currently we’re working on enhancing the experience in the Family Islands and then once that is done then we’ll look at other means as well.”
Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis promised to reform Local Government and introduce it to New Providence. However, this was never done. His administration did not embrace a report it commissioned, which made recommendations on how to reform the system.
Mr Sweeting suggested the administration is not concerned with New Providence right now, saying: “We are looking at Family Islands urgently because that is lacking.”
He also said: “…We have a lot of things, such as persons who are not permanent and pensionable. We have people that’s (been) working in local government for 15, 20 years that are not a part of the government service and so it’s things like this that we have to fix, when you correct it, once we get the correct approach then we can look at other ways.”
He said officials hope for legislation by the end of the year.
“(We want to) work along with other councils,” he said. “Once we put together a proper strategic approach we’ll bring it to Cabinet and hopefully get approval and bring it to the House.”
Asked about revenue generation capacity of local councils, Mr Sweeting said: “In our Blueprint for change we spoke a lot about that.
So, a part of our blueprint and how we want to strategically change local government would be to add revenue raising powers to the local councils in the Family Islands. So, we’ll look at our strategic approach to do that, maybe collect taxes such as real property taxes. It seems the collection is lacking in the Family Islands. I can’t say to specifics what would be engaged there but we’re…looking at giving them revenue raising powers to help enhance the experience in the Family Islands so that they can really help to mould their communities.”
Mr Sweeting said the consultants hired to assist the government draft a new Local Government Act are Alexander Flowers and Alexander Williams, two former Family Island administrators.