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Local Government Elections delayed

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2015 | 6:43 PM

Local Government elections are being pushed by back to next December, delaying by a year and a half the polls, which were last held in March 2012.

The elections were due no later than yesterday, but instead of turning up in Parliament with the date, Local Government Minister Noel Arscott told the House of Representatives that the delay was necessary as more time was needed to implement elements of local-government reform.

Arscott also cited the need for a complete revision of electoral boundaries in Portmore, St Catherine as a reason for putting off the polls but said that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller still had the power to call the elections at any time.

"Despite the delays, we are closer to full implementation than ever before," the minister said of the reform process.

Arscott further argued that while the consultations started more than two decades ago, which includes the period Simpson Miller was local government minister, "the real work and implementation started in 2012".

"When this work is fully implemented, the country will significantly benefit from a more modern, transparent, participatory, and responsive local-government system," said Arscott, while noting that part of the reform would see the term of councillors being extended to four years, up from the current three years.

The parliamentary Opposition, despite urging the minister to withdraw the bill and name the date for the elections, did not vote against them.

Desmond McKenzie, member of parliament for West Kingston who speaks on local government for the Opposition, said the postponement of the elections was "an act of cowardice on the part of the Government".

"Every aspect of local government has fallen to pieces under this current administration and under this minister of local government. The people of this country have a right to make a decision on where we go from here. It should not be left to the Government to find a window of opportunity to call the local government elections. That is what they are waiting for," McKenzie said.

The governing People's National Party won all local authorities in the last elections, winning the majority of the 229 parish council divisions by a margin of 2:1.