Is Local Government the Cradle of Democracy?

Written by Jaevion Nelson

Ask most Jamaicans what the responsibilities of Local Government are and you will be surprised at their responses. Most persons seem to know little or nothing about what councillors do, what they are expected to do as well as who they are.

Although Local Government representatives will be elected today, December 5, few voters realise how their participation will influence policies and decisions at the local and national level. The Local Government “mandate is to involve civil society and local communities in the process of governance, thereby giving the community an opportunity to influence the policies and decisions affecting their lives,” (Ministry of Local Government Website).

The Jamaican electorate elects their representatives, who become employed as councillors at the Parish Council for a three-year period. According to Mayor of May Pen Milton Brown, councillors represent their divisions at the Parish Council and Local Government levels on issues affecting the people.

“When a citizen reports a problem in their community a technical team from the Parish Council will assess the problem and the council will then source the funding … Councillors write appeals to relevant companies, members of parliament and other persons on the behalf of their divisions to address problems in their communities,” he stated.

Brown was quick to dispel any ambiguity surrounding the involvement of citizens in the Parish Council. According to him citizens are allowed to come to the monthly meetings of the council and are also members of different council committees. Citizens can also call the parish council to get in contact with their councillors, if they are having difficulties locating them.

He also stated that councillors should enlist the views of the public in matters relating to community infrastructure and developmental matters. Thereby ensuring the public are true partners when it comes to the development of their community. The parish council, has responsibility for:

  • Poor relief
  • Minor road maintenance
  • Bushing of unoccupied lands
  • Maintenance of drainage
  • Markets and
  • Minor water supply systems.

Did You Know ?

  • The concept of Local Government began in 1663. It was first established in Jamaica by Governor Sir Thomas Modyford and was called the Vestry System.
  • In 1866 the Vestry was superseded by the Parochial Boards.
  • The Parochial Boards established Law 22 of 1=867 to reduce the number of parishes from 22 to 14.

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