Gosling: change to corporations imminent
Proposals to abolish the Corporation of Hamilton and St George or turn them into quangos could come into force before local elections in May, the Mayor of Hamilton said this week.
Charles Gosling learnt of the proposals only in a Monday meeting with Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, just before “two options to ensure growth and development” were put out for ten days of public consultation.
He added: “There has been, essentially, no consultation.”
One option presented by the ministry is to change the corporations into quangos. The second is to dissolve the local authorities altogether and bring them under direct government control.
Mr Gosling said the dissolution option was unlikely.
He explained: “That gets into constitutional issues — I would hope that they would not have the appetite to enter into that.”
Legislation brought to the House of Assembly in March 2018 by Walton Brown, then home affairs minister, deferred ordinary municipal elections from May 2018 to May 2019.
Mr Gosling predicted any changes to municipal governance would go ahead before the elections.
He said: “Obviously, if this goes into law it would have to happen pretty quickly.
“They have a ten-day period prior to getting this tabled in the House of Assembly.
“They would have literally a week or two to get it through Parliament before the electoral process would have to start by law. But this is a fait accompli.”
Mr Gosling also questioned the ministry’s reasons for the reforms, which included the local authorities’ lack of the money needed to revitalise their areas.
He added that the transfer of ministerial control to the home affairs ministry had been “a huge issue”.
Mr Gosling said: “This is supposed to be a minister that represents us and acts on our behalf. Too much of the time it’s actually a speed bump in our way.”
He added that the Corporation of Hamilton had plans to modernise its sewage pumping off the south shore, which was ready to start this year for completion next year.
He said: “Even though I have advised three ministers what we are working on, it’s only recently come to the fore that the Government has its own plan for an island-wide sewerage system.
“This is not something that’s going to happen in the next year or two. I would say it will have double digits.”
Mr Gosling added that the switch to a quango model for the corporations would probably lead to them being operated in a similar way to the West End Development Corporation.
But he said he did not know whether the Government would preserve the open nature of the corporation’s meetings.
He added: “This shows the lack of consultation.”
Quinell Francis, the Mayor of St George, was not available for comment.
A home affairs spokeswoman defended the ministry’s record on consultation and said Mr Gosling’s objections were “surprising” in light of the Government’s stated intentions in the 2018 Throne Speech.
The speech signalled legislation designed to modernise the corporations, to be tabled during this session of Parliament.
The spokeswoman said: “There were regular meetings held between the ministry and the corporation. There were also other means of gaining input on the future of Bermuda’s municipalities, including a public survey carried out in September 2018.
“It should be noted that consultation was held with all constituents, not just the corporation members, which also included town hall meetings in the spring and summer of 2018.”
The Royal Gazette asked if the changes to the corporations were expected to become law before the May elections.
The spokeswoman said: “The Government is consulting the public on the proposed options and, following the completion of the consultation phase, we will release the results of the consultation as well as the timeline associated with the proposed changes to the corporations.”
A policy document, which went live for public consideration this week, can be viewed at forum.gov.bm.
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