McKenzie raises concern about state of parish council buildings

McKenzie raises concern about state of parish council buildings

BY RENAE DIXON Observer staff reporer

Monday, October 24, 2016

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ST ANN’S BAY, St Ann —Minister of Local Governmen and Community Development Desmond McKenzie has raised concerns about the state of parish council buildings, following a visit to St Ann last Thursday.

"There has to be a serious look at parish council buildings across the country," McKenzie said, while at the St Ann Parish Council for a special meeting.

He expressed anger and hurt at the condition that workers at the Westmoreland Parish Council are forced to work under, and shock at the cramped quarters of the St Ann Parish Council.

"I did not expect to find St Ann Parish Council in this little room," McKenzie remarked before insructing his permanent secretary to have an assessment of all parish council buildings across the country.

According to McKenzie, only a handful of parish councils were operating in fairly reasonable space. These include St James, Manchester, Clarendon, and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation.

McKenzie said while many people will say it is not a priority, the environment must be at a level of comfort conducive to do business on behalf of the people.

"You can’t ask members of staff to work in an environment which restricts their ability," he declared.

In the meantime, McKenzie has stressed the need for parish councils to operate with a greater level of autonomy.

"I am not going — in my tenure at least — to continue to allow central government resources to continue to support operations of the councils. The local authorities have more than the ability to fend for themselves," McKenzie told councillors at the special meeting.

McKenzie said there is a weakness in how the councils generate funds to finance their operations.

"There are serious weaknesses in the councils’ ability to fully utilise your potential in terms of your assets," he said.

He pointed out that parish councils have responsibility for approximately 22,000 kilometres of the 27,000-kilometre road network in the country. As a result, he said, the 66 per cent of parochial revenue which is given to the local authority, and which is shared across all divisions in country, is not enough. As such, the minister said parish councils should do all they can to ensure they generate enough funds to finance their operations.

In the meantime, Mckenzie also used the platform to stress the importance of having parish councils, noting that they play an important role in the country.

"There is no way we can operate in Jamaica without a local government system," he said.

He, however, said that there is a need for training to allow councillors to be more aware of the roles and responsibilities they have.

"There is a weakness in the local government system that needs to be addressed," he reasoned.

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