Minister of Local Government and Community Development Honourable Noel Arscott continued his series of Council visits with a stop in Clarendon on Thursday, February 28, 2013. The Minister was accompanied by Minister of State Hon Colin Fagan, Permanent Secretary Robert Rainford and other technical officers from the Ministry.
As usual the session began with the Ministry representatives being welcomed by the leaders of the Council. His Worship the Mayor Scean Barnswell as well as Secretary/Manager Rowan Blake said they were pleased to have the team visit to share the programmes, accomplishments and challenges being experienced by the Council. The Councillors then brought to the Minister’s attention a number of issues affecting the parish, these related to the state of roads, drains, fire service and the need for portable water.
In his response, the Minister encouraged the Council to implement measures to maximize revenue activities as a way to supplement funding provided by the Ministry. The ability to fund their activities is an important element of the independence that is being sought for local authorities through the local government reform programme, and local authorities have been mandated to provide 40% of their funding from own source revenues.
He encouraged the staff and councillors to do all they can to move the parish from “a good parish and a good Council to a great Parish and a great Council.”
Continuing on the matter of revenues Minister Arscott indicated that Clarendon has only collected $90M in property taxes for the current tax period and has arrears of $632M. He urged councillors to inform citizens of the purpose of property taxes which includes paying for street lighting, garbage collection, beautification of public spaces and rehabilitation of parochial roads. The Minister charged councillors to also remind citizens of their legal responsibility to pay their property taxes.
He also noted that the three transportation centres in May Pen, Spauldings and Chapleton, have the potential to generate significant income. “Each Transportation Centre will require an effective business plan and consultations with the key stakeholders to make them viable and sustainable” he advised.
The Minister notified the gathering that submissions made by the Council for financial assistance with plans to develop the May Pen Market and rehabilitate the infirmary, has been included in the Ministry’s Capital ‘A’ budget for 2013-2014. With respect to the Market he gave his assurance that “as soon as the funds are available, the project will be implemented”.
Minister Arscott also seized the opportunity to inform the gathering of the continuous work being done on local government reform programme particularly in the promulgation of the Strategic Laws and the organizational strengthening of LAs. He also spoke of the implementation of the Local Economic Development programme which will examine, identify and develop small and medium businesses.
So far this year the Minister and his team have visited Portland, St Thomas, St Catherine and Clarendon Parish Councils as well as the Portmore Municipal Council. The team will be calling on the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation on March 20, 2013.