CRC For Local Gov’t

The Constitutional reform Commission has recommended that St Lucia returns to the process of holding local government elections last held more than 30 years ago, and said the role of the parliamentary representative in local government was of paramount importance.

The following is Chapter 8 of the Commission’s report which deals with Local Government:
Local Government was introduced in Saint Lucia by an Ordinance No. 6 of 1850 entitled “The Mayor and Town of Castries”. Although the short title was specific to the town of Castries, provisions were also made for the town of Soufriere and the other rural districts to incorporate their own Local Government councils. The procedure for the incorporation of any town or district council was the submission of a petition to the Lieutenant- Governor signed by two thirds of the male inhabitants of full age who were owners of three acres of real or free hold property, or lessees of six acres of land, or was in possession of real or personal property with a clear value of £300, in the town or rural district.The first petition requesting the incorporation of a Local Government Council consisted of one hundred and twenty- six (126) names of the burgesses of Castries and it was published in the Gazette of January 2, 1851. By a Proclamation dated February 18, 1851 the Lieutenant- Governor announced that elections will be held on February 27, 1851 and that the elections will be conducted by a “Barrister, Attorney or Notary as the Lieutenant- Governor may appoint for that purpose”. Elections were for nine (9) Councillors and two (2) Auditors. There were no provisions, however, which prevented Government officials, or employees of the Crown from being elected, but clergymen were not allowed to run for any of these offices.

Elections were held every three (3) years until 1872 when an Ordinance entitled “Castries Town Board” was passed by the Legislative Council at the instance of, and proclaimed by, the Administrator G. William Des Voeux on May 4 of that year. This Ordinance disbanded the elected council and replaced it with a Castries Town Board of three (3) members nominated by the Administrator who also served as Chairman.

Elected Local Government was reintroduced by an amended Castries Town Board Ordinance of 1889, which provided for the town of Castries to be governed, by a Corporate Body with perpetual succession and a Common Seal. The number of councillors was reduced to eight (8) and the first election under this Ordinance was held in December 1889.

Post 1946 to Present
After a period of suspension, local government was reintroduced in Saint Lucia with the passage of the Local Authorities Ordinance of 1947. For much of the period between the 1950s to the late 1970s, Local Government operated at the very heart of community life, offering a range of services. In 1979, Local Government elections were again suspended and Interim Councils comprising nominated members were appointed to conduct the affairs of Towns and Village Councils. In 1997, a Local Government Reform Task Force was established by Central Government, to, among other roles, “examine and advise on the appropriate legislative, fiscal, institutional and administrative measures required to strengthen the operations of Local Government.”

A Green Paper was published by the said Task Force as a Discussion Draft, after much consultation and discussion at a series of consultative meetings. Unfortunately, this document was not circulated for review, nor put up for any further discussion or public consultation. However, this Commission noted some salient recommendations of the Task Force, which the Commission felt were worthy of consideration in making recommendations for the entrenchment of Local Government in the Constitution. In particular two issues were highlighted by the Commission, namely:

(i) roles and functions of a Local Government Authority; and
(ii) a new structure for Local Government.
One of the goals of Local Government is that it should be established at the heart of communities, providing a broad range of services. Further, Local Government should have the power to provide any service they consider necessary that will redound to the benefits of the people that they serve, in addition to those other functions and services that are assigned exclusively to Central Government.

It is being recommended that a two-stage approach to service provision be adopted as follows:
(i) in the short term the focus should be on ‘Standard Services’, meaning those services which are exclusive and local in nature which might more efficiently be provided at a local level. For example: maintenance and repairs of roads, cemeteries, squares, sporting facilities, parks, beaches and open spaces, public buildings; granting of permits and licences, operation of libraries etcetera; and (ii) Long Term Services – the focus might be on those services which might be provided at a later date as the Local Government Authority develops the requisite capacity; including but not limited to, advisory to Central Government, provision of housing for the poor, destitute and disabled, provision of primary health care, management of pre-schools, land use planning, operation and maintenance of select educational facilities such as libraries and schools.

Conduct of Elections
Prior to the suspension of Town and Village Councils, elections were conducted in accordance with Regulations in the Local Authorities Ordinance of 1947. Each prospective candidate would apply for nomination papers, which would be endorsed by signatures of six eligible voters and returned to the Presiding Officer appointed for such election in the said community. On the prescribed Election Day, eligible voters of the said community would cast their votes accordingly for the number of members required since the term of office of all members would not expire at the same time. There would be on the Council, three nominated members appointed by Central Government to represent their views and seven elected members. The Council would comprise ten members of which one elected member would be the Chairperson and one of the three nominated members would be elected as the Deputy Chairperson. The Chair and his Deputy would be elected by the entire Council at the first sitting of the Council.

The Commission noted that at the public community consultations conducted by the Task Force of Local Government Reform, the feedback clearly indicated that persons did not wish to see elections contested on the basis of party politics. The view was that party politics was divisive and would not encourage the growth of “community spirit and action”, which it is believed to be the bedrock of Local Government. The Commission endorses this view of the Task Force as this assertion is consistent with the findings of the Commission during its community outreach activities. The Commission is mindful of the importance of keeping the election process simple, so as to increase the potential for effective participation. However, it would be unfair to exclude the views of the Parliamentary Representative from the discussions of the Local Government Authority when deciding on improvement and developmental plans of the community.

Role of Parliamentary Representatives.
The role of the Parliamentary Representative in Local Government is of paramount importance. The Parliamentary Representative, as the name implies, represents all the people in his/her constituency in Parliament regardless of their party affiliation. Following the recommendation of the Commission that Parliamentary Representatives should no longer be Ministers of Government, the primary function of the Parliamentary Representative would be the welfare of his/her constituents in conjunction with the Local Government Authority. Besides nominating persons for membership in the Local Government, the Parliamentary Representative should be a liaison between the local authority, Central Government and in particular the Ministry or ministries responsible for Local Government and community development.

There must be a link between the Parliamentary Representative and the Local Government at all times. These two parties must treat each other with mutual respect. Local Government will function effectively if appropriate communication linkages are established between the Parliamentary Representative, the Local Government and the Ministry responsible for Local Government. The relationship should be a collaborative and consultative one. To cultivate this, it is imperative that a programme of education and awareness be planned to sensitise both the Parliamentary Representative and the Local Government in team building and conflict resolution.

In seeking to re-engineer the public services of Saint Lucia, the emphasis has to be placed upon delivery of goods and services to the population. The most effective manner in which to accomplish this will be to re-introduce the system of elected Local Government on such a basis that the implementation of Government policy can reach all corners of Saint Lucia. Since its suspension in 1979, there have not been any Local Government elections and the Commission would like this to be the first step towards a renaissance movement to carry Government to the very basic levels of society.

There is no other way that the citizens of Saint Lucia will enjoy the benefits of public policy decisions on an equal basis unless the State is prepared to employ a philosophy of decentralisation in which the Local Government network can serve as the vehicle of delivery.

The ravages of Hurricane Tomàs in October 2010 only served to highlight the need for fundamental reform of the public services and their ability to reach all communities. As Saint Lucia rises out of the trauma of that event, the lessons to be learnt may now be squarely addressed in reforming the Local Government system as part of the overall exercise of re-engineering public service delivery.

The Commission recognised that Local Government was too important an issue to be left to ordinary legislation. Therefore, in seeking to make improvements, the Commission recommends that Local Government be entrenched within the Constitution so that it receives the appropriate protection and permanence that it deserves.

The Commission recommends that there should be a place for Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the new arrangements for Local Government on a non-partisan basis. The Commission agrees that Local Government is an important step forward in making systemic change. To that end, it recommends the adoption of a system of nominated and elected members with the elected representatives constituting the majority. In its examination of the issue of Local Government, the Commission reviewed the aforementioned Green Paper on Local Government. The Commission noted that this document contained many good recommendations which could serve as a basis for the reintroduction of an effective system of Local Government.

Among the objectives outlined in Statutory Instrument No. 50, 2004, the Commission was mandated “to promote better governance and greater equity in the constitutional framework generally”. There could be no better way to accomplish this objective than to restart the Local Government system on an ideally non-partisan basis.

With respect to Local Government, the Commission recommends the following: (120) The system of elected Local Government in Saint Lucia should be re-established.
(121) The Constitution should make provision for Local Government to be entrenched.
(122) Community Based Organisations (CBOs) should be an essential component of Local Government.
(123) Local Government bodies should comprise both elected and nominated representatives with the majority being elected.
(124) Local Government should be instituted as a means of facilitating more efficient delivery of goods and services by the State to all communities.

(125) Local Government authorities should comprise the following:
Two (2) members nominated by the Parliamentary Representative
Two (2) members nominated by CBO’s
Six (6) members elected in Local Government elections

(126) Public Officers, whose functions do not involve the formulation and direct implementation of Government policies, should be allowed to stand for election to Local Government.
(127) There should be a formal link between the Parliamentary Representative and the Local Government Authority.

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