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Govt considers legislating City’s code of conduct

Government is looking at legislating the City of Hamilton’s Code of Conduct, and reinstating the municipalities’ right to collect wharfage fees, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said yesterday.

In an update to the Senate on Government’s plans to reform the municipalities, Senator Fahy said that a policy development team is assessing feedback received from the Corporations of St George and Hamilton following a round of consultation.

“The policy development team is actively assessing the feedback and looking at means by which the Corporation of Hamilton’s Code of Conduct can be incorporated into the legislation; evaluating borrowing limit cap removal for the corporations as well as evaluating the reinstatement of wharfage to address operational issues,” he told the Senate.

He reminded the Senate of Government’s proposed reforms which include reinstating a form of business vote, giving the Minister power to approve developments which exceed $1 million and final approval on land and property acquisitions as well as final approval of “any resolution with respect to any matter deemed of national interest”.

He clarified that the business vote would be restricted to one rate payer per business regardless of the number of outlets the business owned, and that the rate payer would have to be on the Parliamentary Register and registered to vote.

“This means that big business owners and small business owners would have the same right on an equal basis regardless of revenues, property ownership or any criteria that classifies them by size and or buying power,” the Minister said.

“Each rate payer, regardless of the number of outlets in the municipality would have the opportunity to select one person from within their organisation to vote in the municipal election. What’s more Madam President, the person selected to cast the vote on behalf of the organisation must be registered to vote and their name must appear on the parliamentary register. This essentially means that the voter must be Bermudian.”

He continued: “Madam President, it’s clear that municipal government is an aid to central government both in Bermuda and elsewhere. Generally, local governments, another term used for municipalities, act within powers delegated to them by legislation or directives of the central government.

“With this in mind, the proposed amendments to the Municipalities Act 1923 will further define the working relationship and overall governance structure of the municipalities, providing the Government with an opportunity to engage in the decision-making process.

“For instance, it is proposed that general provisions for mayors, alderman and common councillors will be modified to provide for mayors and councillors only.”

In 2011, reform of the municipalities stripped away the rights of business owners to vote in corporation elections and also funnelled wharfage fees from the two towns into the coffers of central Government.

Residents in each of the municipalities were then given the right to vote for the first time.

The Corporation of Hamilton elected under the new rules has had a controversial tenure so far, with allegations of poor governance, micromanagement and refusing to cooperate with the Government on the waterfront redevelopment project.

The City’s Code of Conduct has also not been signed by all members of the council. City Hall has said it is working on revising the document.

City of Hamilton: Its code of conduct may be written into law by Government

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Published June 13, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 12, 2013 at 11:50 pm)

Govt considers legislating City’s code of conduct

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