Regrello: Extending local government life makes sense

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello –

SAN Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello welcomed Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi’s announcement that the life of local government corporations in Trinidad will be extended by a year.

Al-Rawi made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday. The life of local government corporations was due to end in December under the existing legislation.

Al-Rawi said under the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill 2020, which will be partially proclaimed on Tuesday, the terms of all councillors and aldermen currently in office will end on December 3, 2023.

He said this extra year will allow for rollout of the local government reform package and there is a three month-period after this date within which local government elections can be held.

The existing legislation allowed a three-month period to call local government elections from the previous date of December 3.

Regrello expressed his support for the extension to Newsday before a function at the Police Service Credit Union’s office in Cocoyea on Friday.

“Local government reform has been on the table for the past 20 years It’s been promised, but not progressed as it should.”

Regrello believed the additional year being given now to local government corporations will provide the time needed to set the groundwork for local government reform

“Three years (for local government) is a short time. Five years (for central government) is a short time.”

Regrello said getting local government reform under way will “take the burden off of central government.”

He observed there are some functions currently being done by central government which could be done by local government corporations if they had more autonomy to do so.

On Thursday, Al-Rawi said, “Within the extra year, we will be able to build out all the relevant sections of the law, including taking councillors who are executive members and making them into secretaries similar to the THA; operationalising 13 separate divisions inside local government divisions, including planning, engineering, audit and accounting, sporting and recreation, etc.”

He also said under the amended Municipal Corporations Act, local government corporations would be able to handle the collection of residential property tax in areas under their jurisdiction.

Regrello believed the Opposition UNC’s call for local government elections to be held this year or early next year, and its claim that the PNM was afraid to face the electorate, reflected the UNC’s failure to understand the significance of local government reform.

“The government has to do what it has to do. The opposition has to do what they have to do.”

Regrello said he was not surprised at the UNC’s opposing anything which is progressive for TT.

But he said, “One must understand the dynamics and where the world is today.”

He said it made better sense to implement local government reform with the existing corporations in place and give the reform a chance to work before calling an election.

“If you bring in incumbents, a new team, new councillors and just drop them in the middle of this (ongoing local government reform), what they do?

“I think timing is important.”