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CoH critical of reform consultation process

Corporation inconsistencies: Walton Brown, the former minister of Home Affairs (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The City of Hamilton has dismissed the Government’s claims that it carried out consultation before announcing plans for further municipalities reform.

In a Throne Speech pledge last week, the Progressive Labour Party said a Bill will be tabled soon to modernise the municipalities, and noted that consultation with the corporations of Hamilton and St George is “now completed”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said last night there will be additional consultation and the minister “intends to meet with the respective corporations soon”.

A spokeswoman for the City yesterday took issue with the Throne Speech’s claim that consultation was complete, stating they had only been involved in a brief conversation.

She said: “The Corporation of Hamilton can state unequivocally that while a meeting was held between the City and the Ministry of Home Affairs, nothing in this meeting could in any manner be construed as ‘consultation’.

“This meeting was scheduled less than a week before the public meetings were held.

“In the hour-long meeting, the corporation answered questions such as how it would ‘describe a strong, ideal, positive relationship between the Corporation of Hamilton and the Government of Bermuda’ as well as, ‘in the current relationship between the Corporation of Hamilton and the Government of Bermuda, what is working?’.

“Questions of such superficial depth are not devices by which true consultation occurs, it is the cynical means by which a box is ticked.”

The spokeswoman added that the public meetings were “poorly advertised” with fewer than 25 people in attendance.

She said: “We are hoping the newly appointed Minister of Home Affairs will look at this again and engage in a true consultative process which includes all stake holders stating positions, identifying role model municipalities, being able to defend or in turn accepting that there are better solutions available and that a consensual resolution works best.”

The Corporation of St George was also contacted for comment, but had not issued a statement as of press time last night.

Government announced in March that it would defer scheduled elections in the island’s two municipalities until after amendments had been made to modernise both.

Walton Brown, who was then the Minister of Home Affairs, said there are inconsistencies in how each corporation is structured, with one focused mainly on business and the other on residential.

He added: “Municipalities in Bermuda do not deliver social services and the need for social services within the municipalities is growing.

“The Government believes that the two levels of Government, national and municipal, can no longer operate in economic or decision-making silos.”

Mr Brown said there would ba a six-month consultation process and two public meetings were held, one in each municipality.

In the Throne Speech, the Government said it was committed to modernising the role of municipalities on the island.

It said: “Consultation with both corporations began in May 2018 and has now been completed.

“During this session, a bill will be tabled to implement further reforms to the municipalities setting a platform for their growth and development as centres of commerce, tourism and thriving community life.”