by Zena Henry
With archaic legislation that still sees municipal offenders paying only hundreds of dollars in fines if convicted, the Ministry of Communities and the municipal bodies across the country are bent on reviewing such matters that deny money to the communities.
This is according to subject Minister, Ronald Bulkan who announced at a press conference Thursday August 13 that a task force would be set up to explore the various ills of community development.
The main hindrance in achieving this development is financing. Minister Bulkan,prior to the press conference, held talks with heads of the nation’s six municipalities and financing, according to him, was their greatest concern.
The minister said that the main source of revenue for a municipalities and local government organs is the collection of rates and taxes payable by property owners. He said there has been no recent valuation of properties, with the last valuation exercise being done many decades ago.
“It has been identified that there is absolute necessity for there to be current valuations …” With regards to the legislation, Permanent Secretary Emile McGarrell explained that this issue was a specific one identified by the municipal heads and a specific one to be addressed by the upcoming task force.
“We recognize that an appropriate mechanism must be put in place; one that results in community consultations… for the exercise that will result in them paying more for violations.”
Representing the Georgetown municipality, Mayor Hamilton Green insinuated that the “new dispensation” now opens the door for the establishment of a municipal court; a long touted idea.
He said that, “as a result of discussions at the highest level, something that was proposed some years ago is now likely to be a reality that is to establish a municipal court.” While the Mayor mentioned that the details of this need to be worked out, he noted that the idea behind this initiative was to reduce the time persons on municipal offences spend in court and to provide a separate system for municipal law.
He pointed out that the fines for municipal offences go into the Consolidated Fund, but that is not good for the towns. This is something to be worked out so that municipalities gain from those who break their laws, Green indicated.
The matter of by-law enforcement and prosecution is also a matter for the task force.