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Corporations to become quangos

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs

The Mayor of Hamilton warned the Government could be hit with a large compensation bill if it passes legislation transforming Bermuda’s municipalities into quangos.

Charles Gosling was speaking after Walter Roban, Minister of Home Affairs, tabled the Municipalities Reform Act 2019 in the House of Assembly.

Mr Gosling told The Royal Gazette: “It is a complete change in the beneficial ownership of the corporation.

He added: “If ownership is taken away, you are deserving of full and proper compensation for that.”

Mr Gosling acknowledged the municipalities were enacted through an Act of Parliament, but continued: “That doesn’t mean that it is a child of Parliament. It doesn’t mean that Parliament owns the assets.

“Right now, it is not my job to make it easy to calculate, nor identify, those who should be compensated.”

The Bill removes municipal elections and allows the minister to appoint a mayor and four of eight councillors.

“The remaining four councillors would be appointed on the recommendation of a selection committee appointed by the minister.

Mr Gosling challenged the Government’s decision to afford more authority to the minister.

He said: “The current legislation, as amended in 2015, allows the minister so many powers to instruct and have public officials act on his behalf.

“What, and more importantly, why would you need more power than that — especially when no minister in this government has even exercised that authority?”

Mr Roban said that repealing municipal elections would save about $79,000.

He said that the offices of mayor and councillors would remain intact and there would be no job losses.

Mr Gosling also warned that the Bill would set a dangerous precedent that could enable assets to be seized from charities.

He said: “There are many Bermuda institutions that have been incorporated through Acts of Parliament — the largest landowner after the Government is the Bermuda National Trust.

“Surely you don’t want to set a precedent where they are able to come in and take over the assets of the corporation without due compensation and do the same with the Bermuda National Trust, Bermuda Audubon Society or other agencies.

“These are similarly legislated bodies, which have no de facto set of owners, but where they are an organisation that exists with very specific and valuable assets.”

Mr Roban said the Bill affords greater legislative and financial authority to the Corporation of St George.

Quinell Francis, the Mayor of St George, has been a vocal opponent of the level of consultation over municipality reform. She did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.