Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Inside the Municipal Corporations | Low revenues crippling functions - Increased revenues would aid in damage management

Published:Monday | June 12, 2017 | 6:00 AMTamara Bailey

Mandeville, Manchester:

With a percentage of the revenue of the councils being lost to criminals, particularly from the markets, Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie is adamant that it has to stop.

"The time has come when we have to shake this monster and get rid of this level of criminality ... . We are going to be training and improving on the municipal police officers ... ," said McKenzie.

He said that with the requisite funding needed to keep the councils operational, the officers must take full responsibility in areas of compliance and law enforcement.

"We are using in excess annually of close to $1 billion in revenue because of weaknesses in the system ... . What we should be earning from trade licences, we are not earning because the compliance rate is very low."

He added: "What we need to do is step up our enforcement, (and) to take the necessary steps which are at the disposal of the local authority to get these people accountable ... ."

McKenzie, who was present at the Manchester Municipal Corporation's monthly meeting last Thursday, pointed out that much more work needs to be done.

"We have not done enough to get the compliance ... . We have done well over the last year and a half because we have seen significant improvement in revenue streams ... , but that increase is still not adequate to cover the workings of the local authority."

Local Government Minster Desmond McKenzie has highlighted the needs of several parishes following recent heavy rains, adding that an increase in revenue would assist in managing current and future damage.

"It is expected that we are going to have an active hurricane season. If we are faced now with a bill of $1.4 billion just in eight days, what is going to happen if the season becomes as active as the predictions?" McKenzie asked.

"The infrastructure of the country will not be able to withstand much more in its current state ... . While we contemplate where to go, the local authority will have to demonstrate some responsibility in using, in a more productive way, the resources."

He further mentioned that the Manchester Municipal Corporation would have to improve on its property tax collection as part of solving the problem.

"Last year, the parish ended, in collection, third from the bottom. While I understand some of the concerns, if you look back, you will see a pattern with Manchester ... ."

McKenzie was set to meet with the island's mayors last Friday to outline a social programme on the way forward.