Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | November 8, 2009
Home : In Focus
Issues in local government reform

Carl Wright (left), secretary general, Commonwealth Local Government Reform, talks with Robert Montague, minister of state with responsibilities for local government reform. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

The following is in response to Joan Williams' "Another useless layer of government", published on Sunday, October 25. It has been edited for length.

The Editor, Sir:

We welcome the debate on local government and local governance and the attendant principles which are continuously subjected to consultations, dialogue, suggestions and recommendations. It is in this vein that we want to thank media companies, such as The Gleaner, which play a vital role in giving prominence to these expressions from our people as is the case with Williams' opinion expressed in The Sunday Gleaner of October 25, entitled 'Another useless layer of government'.

We are glad for the opportunity, once again share with Williams and your readers our efforts and progress in local government reform and to substantiate the relevance of our local authorities and their current portfolio responsibilities. We recognise that time and space do not allow for a detailed response, however, we will make a few pertinent comments.

First, we wish to clarify that in his interview on 'Power 106', Minister of State Robert Montague did not speak to extending the tenure of the consultant, but of continuing the consultative process on local government reform, particularly in the area of the strategic laws and other key legislation relating to important functions that we are seeking to have promulgated and amended to better reflect the roles and functions of the local authorities.


Consultation is the mode by which we have operated in order to garner feedback from our communities in arriving at the final recommendations contained in the NAC Report. The mandate of the current Local Government Reform Programme is the implementation of the agreed recommendations of the National Advisory Council

In addition, we are not sure who are the other consultants to whom Williams refers, but the Department of Local Government has only one consultant in-house, the erudite Keith Miller, who is recognised locally and internationally as an authority on local government and local governance with over 40 years' experience in both.


Due to the efforts of Miller and others in executing the local government reform process, a number of initiatives have been undertaken, to strengthen council and give stronger voice to our citizens. These include:

The National Advisory Council on Local Government Reform, which is a broad-based bipartisan grouping with the aim of arriving at recommendations and strategies for effective implementation of local government reform through the consultative process and which has issued both an interim and final report.

Sittings of the joint select committee on local government reform resulting in the tabling of the related report, including recommendations in both Houses of Parliament.

The development of parish development committees and their umbrella organisation, the National Association of Parish Development Committees. These organisations were deliberately set up to increase and deepen citizens' participation at the community level.

The process leading to promulgation of strategic laws covering governance, finance and human resources; nine consultations have been completed with individual stakeholder groups, prior to final consultation with stakeholder representatives in early November. These laws will enable Council to better carry out its functions and delivery of service to the communities they serve.

Extensive training of the political and administrative directorate of Councils through 12 capacity-building interventions since January, 2007, in the areas of orientation of councillors, strategic planning, revenue enhancement and human resource management.

An organisational review of the local authorities, which is currently being conducted to review processes, ascertain competencies, identify skills gaps and recommend the most relevant structure.

The consolidation of Jamaica's role as spearheading local governance in the region through the department's role as secretariat to the Caribbean Forum of Local Government Ministers in its execution of a CIDA-funded project which has resulted in the development of a regional policy and cooperation framework.

The recognition of Jamaica's role as a leader in regional local governance though a partnership between the department and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in proposing a CDN$20 million support for the implementation of the recommendations arising from the regional policy.

The enhancement of Jamaica's international stature through its role as vice chair of RIAD (Inter-American Network on decentralisation, local government and citizen participation).

Contrary to Williams' opinion, the validation and justification of local government, as a useful and necessary layer, lie in the fundamental principle which underpins local government reform, namely that citizens have a right to a direct say in the management of their own affairs and that services and functions which are best delivered and administered at the local level should be so devolved to local government.

It is within the context of this principle that such local services as the provision of streetlights, development and maintenance of rural water supply systems and the operation of public markets are undertaken by the respective local authorities. Streetlight installations are undertaken by councils after consultations by councillors with community members to determine where best to have limited allocation placed.

community members

The councils, apart from regular checking for defective streetlights, also rely on community members to advise of non-functioning lights so that early repairs can be effected by JPS who are contractually charged to do so. More details on the protocol's related to this can be had from the Office of Utilities Regulation Website.

Metropolitan Parks and Markets, which still functions as a regional body, is currently not properly structured to undertake the management of the over 40 viable markets located across the island. These markets are now under the direction of the respective councils and the biggest challenge facing these entities is the need to improve their infrastructure.

With regard to Williams' recommendations for consolidation at the local level, this was a major point of discussion during the NAC consultations and the overwhelming response from the public was to maintain the parish council as the unit of administration.

Ironically, in advocating the county system, Williams is in fact arguing for local government, but in a differing form, and this is where we would welcome the thrust of the debate as we seek to advance this important tenet of our nation's development.

I am, etc.,

Clive Edwards

Project Manager

Local Government Reform


The Department of Local


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