The Three Strategic Laws, designed to give practical value to and enforcement of the Local Government Reform process, were passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 10. The Bills, which were piloted by Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott, are the Local Governance Bill, the Local Government (Unified Service and Employment) Bill and the Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) Bill. Commencing the debate on the Local Governance Bill, Mr. Arscott said it is intended to create the framework within which local authorities will operate with greater scope and autonomy. “Additionally, it will provide new and clear standards of accountability for local authorities, and place extensive public consultation and participation at the heart of the new environment of governance.”
The Bill provides for the establishment of a framework to accommodate the various types of local authorities; expand their mandate to include sustainable development and the maintenance of civic order; create accountability and transparency mechanisms for local authorities; define the role and relationship between the administrative and political organs of local authorities; and empower civil society and communities in the governance process. In terms of the Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) Bill, the Minister said it seeks to identify sources of revenue from which Local Authorities will be financed.
“It also provides guidelines and oversight mechanisms for the prudent financial management, accountability and transparency of local authorities,” he stated. This Bill also repeals the Parochial Rates and Finance Act.
“This piece of legislation will provide a comprehensive framework to address the financing and financial matters and management of local authorities. This framework is expected to facilitate efficient and transparent local governance,” he stated. The Local Government (Unified Service and Employment) Bill establishes a framework for addressing human resource management issues with respect to staff employed in the service of Local Authorities. The Bill will also facilitate the establishment of a competent workforce with the requisite skills, orientation and commitment to local governance. The law will repeal the Parish Councils (Unified Services) Act, the Municipal Service Commission Act, and the Poor Relief Officers (Unified Service) Act.
In his contribution to the debate, Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Colin Fagan, welcomed the passage of the pieces of legislation. “I think this is a good day for the Parish Councils,” he said.
Opposition Spokesperson on Local Government Desmond McKenzie also hailed the passage of the Bills.
The pieces of legislation will now be sent to the Senate for approval.