Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Councillors to get own offices in new $515m financing regime

Published:Friday | April 21, 2017 | 4:00 AMJovan Johnson
Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie making his presentation in Parliament on Wednesday.

Councillors and political representatives at the parish level are to get their own offices in a $515 million financing arrangement announced Wednesday by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie.

He said $400 million will go towards providing housing for the poor, as well as social assistance, education and funeral needs.

The remaining $115 million will be devoted to a special fund to assist councillors to help fire victims in their divisions. Some of that will also go towards establishing an official office for councillors in each of the 227 electoral divisions across Jamaica.

"For the first time, funding will be dedicated to elected representatives to carry out meaningful change at the divisional level," McKenzie said in his contribution to the Sectoral Debate.

He said most of the money to fund the projects is coming from the Equalisation Fund, which is supported by property tax collections. "What were you doing with it?" he asked opposition members who were heckling him.

 

Move welcome

 

Leon Thomas, the mayor of the Portmore, said he welcomed the announcement but with a caution. "It's a very good move.

"Regarding the poor relief part, it's nothing new, just something being reinvented. The grants for councillors is something welcomed; even the offices that he announced, I hope that all those promises will be kept," said the People's National Party representative.

Mayor of Portmore Leon Thomas said that the municipal corporation was looking forward to the start of construction of its new home, the plans for which have been talked about for awhile.

Desmond McKenzie disclosed on Wednesday that the Cabinet approved the $190 million project and that he would be signing the performance agreement "shortly" with the contractor, HDB Construction Company.

Meanwhile, he said the Government was considering starting works at the municipal buildings in St Thomas and St Ann, but "if we are restricted by the flow of funds, full attention will be given to St Thomas".

Work on the Westmoreland building, he said, was due to be completed by this month end. McKenzie added that he was "disappointed" that the $75 million project was not finished.

Structure of financing regime for councillors

- Each councillor will access $500,000 per year to help constituents with housing assistance

- $90 million to care for people living in indigent housing

- $1.7 million to each municipal corporation for educational grants

- $1.5 million to each municipal corporation for funeral grants

- Applications for the benefits will be managed by the Poor Relief Departments of the municipal corporations.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com