Local authority best to allocate poor relief funds, says PNP councillorFriday, May 14, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Councillor Uphel Purcell is calling on the Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda to revisit the decision to allocate more than $100 million to Members of Parliament (MPs) to assist the poorest in their constituencies.
Samuda made the disclosure during his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate presentation in the House of Representatives on April 27.
Purcell, who is the People's National Party's elected representative for the York Town Division, says he believes the poor relief department, which operates out of the municipal corporations have trained individuals to identify and reach out to the neediest and most destitute among the population.
“When the minister made the announcement, I was shocked because I'm sure he doesn't know all the poor persons in his constituency. We have to rely on the technical persons from the poor relief department who were trained to do the work out there. If you are going to allocate funds to touch the poorest of the poor the best place is to go through is the local authority, so why not allocate the money or some of it to the local authority instead of it going to the MPs for them to sign off,” he said, arguing that the MPs should not be given full autonomy over this programme.
“I wonder if the minister recognises that we are also representatives of the poor and we also have a poor relief army working out of the municipal corporation who are working on a day-to-day basis with the poorest in the parish?” he questioned.
Purcell, who was addressing the monthly sitting of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation on Thursday, stressed that the poor relief departments already have a structure in place that works at the local level.
“We are already paying for the school children (to attend school) we have been paying for their nightly dinner and for persons to go to the health centres and hospital to get care and sometimes they don't even have fare we have to find it. So, we are asking the minister to look back and take into consideration the importance of the poor relief department and the local authority and the councillors who know and are with the citizens day and night. I am calling upon him to withdraw (the decision to) sending the money to the MPs alone.”
The councillor also questioned what will happen if an MP is at odds with their councillor or if they are unable to find some of their poorest constituents.
“We are duty bound to find every poor person and to assist them. We are also representatives of the people. We have a duty and a responsibility (to these people).”
Councillor for the Toll Gate Division, the Jamaica Labour Party's Radcliffe McDonald, said the councillors are being undermined.
“The truth is they don't rate councillors. We are the councillors who are on the ground doing the work and they are getting the fame. We have to stand up and put the politics aside when we come here and fight for the people” he lamented.
May Pen Mayor Winston Maragh, who is also the President of the Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica, reassured his colleagues that he has taken note of the minister's pronouncements and says he will be sending a letter to the Minister of Labour to outline their concerns immediately.
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