September 27, 2016

A response to Urling’s erroneous statements

Dear Editor,
I thank Mr Clinton Urling for contributing to the discourse on local government by penning a letter published under the caption, ‘Clinton Urling says Vincent Alexander is wrong,’ (KN, March 14).
I acknowledge too, his commendation of the administration for holding local government election within one year of coming into office, proof of our sincerity towards local Democracy.
I note though, that Mr Urling had made statements in his letter that may not be entirely factual and I take this opportunity to offer some clarification.
Mr Urling erroneously asserts that the mayorship is “a ceremonial position” and the “system resides executive and administrative functions to the Town Clerk.” However, according to Section 8A (a) of the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Act 2013, which amends the principal legislation i.e. Chapter 28:01, ‘The general duties of the City Councillors shall be to – consider the interest of the municipality as a whole and bring to the attention of the council anything which would promote such welfare or interest; (b) develop and evaluate policies and programmes for the municipality.
Clearly, The Council, headed by the mayor – not the Town Clerk – is responsible for the welfare of the municipality.
Significantly, Section 8A (g) of the Act states that, ‘The general duties of City Councillors shall be to – ensure that the municipality is managed in a professional and competent manner by a qualified Town Clerk.’ This Section contradicts Mr. Urling’s assertion that the elected council cannot hire or fire the Town Clerk. Obviously, in order to give effect to this provision of the Act, the councillors must be so empowered.
Mr Urling’s position that the mayor and councillors are ceremonial and weak is incorrect; the Act evidently puts that question to rest. The Town Clerk is, in fact, a servant not a master of the council.
Opportunity is taken to reaffirm the fact that this government, unlike past administrations, intends to respect the autonomy that local government organs enjoy under the Constitution.
There is no equivocation on the part of the administration on the role of local democratic organs. We recognise that they are an indispensable part of the democratic organisation of the State.
President Granger has repeatedly emphasised the government’s strategic direction. Speaking at Anna Regina on Friday March 11 2016, His Excellency said, “Win, lose or draw, we will respect the authority of councils elected next week.”
The Ministry looks forward to partnering and cooperating with the new councils. There will no longer be domination by central government.
The Ministry will work hand in hand with local government organs to transform all of our communities as is being done in Georgetown, where one can see and smell the renewal and revival of our Capital City.
I hope that this letter serves to inform Mr Urling of what actually obtains, and provide the public with some clarity regarding the role of councils.

Yours sincerely,
Ronald Bulkan,
Minister of
Communities

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