Sunday, March 3, 2024

PEP COLUMN: Bastardizing of Constituency Councils

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In 2006 the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) published a leaflet in which we called for a system of Constituency Councils and explained in detail how the system would work. In 2008 the new Government bastardized our ideas and produced a system of Constituency Councils whose major functions are, apparently, to sponsor a karaoke competition and run a politically partisan football tournament.
If, instead of this bastardization, the PEP’s ideas had been implemented, this is what the Barbadian people would have received:
“Where there are emergency cases of garbage pile-ups, excessive overgrown bush or potholes in minor roads in the community, the council would not have to wait on and beg the Sanitation Service Authority, the National Conservation Commission or the Ministry of Public Works.
“Instead, the council would be able to respond immediately by contracting a community-based service provider and his or her local community workers to clear away the health hazard or to patch the road.
“The Ministry of Education would be required to consult with the council on the appointment of boards of management of all Government schools within the council area. A much closer relationship between schools and the communities in which they are located would emerge from this.
“Furthermore in addition to the normal Government welfare agencies, the council would administer an Emergency Welfare Fund for residents of the council area, as well as a local Scholarship & Apprenticeship Fund to assist students experiencing serious financial difficulties.
“A number of small council-run food and nutrition centres would be established at strategic locations, and the basic essential foods – rice, potatoes, chicken – would be made available to needy persons at the lowest possible prices. Councils would also be responsible for the granting of vendor’s licences within the council area, and for identifying locations where vendors would be permitted to operate.
“Councils would establish forums where residents discuss and make recommendations in respect of new laws and policies that are being considered by the House of Assembly. Furthermore, the relevant Government agencies would be required to consult with the council on applications for major projects in the constituency area.
“In addition, councils would play an important role in the putting together of Government’s annual work plans and budgets, by advising the various government ministries and departments as to the needs of their council areas for roads, housing, jobs, sports and recreational facilities. The council would also be available to receive complaints and requests for assistance from residents, and to liaise with the Member of Parliament of the constituency.
“The existence of some 600 constituency councillors would make it possible to set up a number of ‘oversight’ or ‘watchdog’ committees to investigate and ‘police’ the relevant operations in all Government agencies that interact with the public.
“And finally, councils would assume responsibility for establishing boards of management of community centres within the council area, and overseeing community development and sports programmes.”

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