Gosling refuses to take city reform lying down
The Mayor of Hamilton vowed to go to court yesterday over the Government's intention to do away with the corporations of Hamilton and St George.
Charles Gosling said the city authority was “not going to take this lying down”.
Mr Gosling threw down the gauntlet after a ministerial statement on Friday by Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister.
Responsibility for the two municipalities, which the Government aims to replace with quangos, fell to Colonel Burch in a Cabinet shuffle last month.
The minister said the Government would press on with eliminating the corporations, despite opposition to the move.
Colonel Burch added: “On an island as small as ours, I simply cannot understand why there are three separate governments.”
In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Gosling pointed out that his battle against the reforms went back a decade.
He said: “This will be my third go-round with this issue.
“We saved the city once before in 2010, we faced the threat in 2019 and we're now preparing to face it again.”
The Municipalities Reform Act 2019, swapping the corporations with administrators appointed by the Government, got approved in March last year by the House of Assembly, but did not pass in the Senate.
Colonel Burch said on Friday that he had held “fruitful” talks with Mr Gosling, as well as George Dowling, the Mayor of St George.
He told the House that the Olde Towne in particular had been ordered to “up their game” for the return of tourism.
Mr Gosling responded that the Corporation of Hamilton had celebrated 225 years' service this year.
He added: “No one at the corporation has it in their schedule that it will be the last.
“We intend to live up to our vision of being a democratically elected, vibrant, safe and clean city focused on economic growth and livability.”
The mayor said Hamilton was bracing itself to “take on the renewed threat of a Government takeover” after Colonel Burch's salvo on Friday.
Mr Gosling said 98 per cent of those polled by the Government on the issue last year had been against the move.
He said public opinion had swayed the Senate, along with the view that St George needed its own management because of its unique operation.
The mayor said previous ministers in charge of the municipalities had reduced collaboration to “15-minute, tick-the-box conversations”.
“We don't yet know what the coming Bill will include, if it's back to a quango option, as outlined in the 2019 failed Bill, but if so, that is not collaboration, that is a takeover, and in my opinion, they have no legal right.”
Mr Gosling emphasised the importance of local governance, and said government interference would disenfranchise residents and ratepayer.
The mayor pointed out that Corporation of Hamilton sanitation crews had stepped in early in the Covid-19 crisis when the Government's waste collectors stayed off work over “very legitimate health concerns” for fellow staff.
Mr Gosling further stated that the Government already had ministerial oversight because all corporation resolutions had to get final approval from the minister.
The corporation also had to follow the Government's financial instructions, including for large leases or purchases of its property.
He added; “We don't believe this action by the Government is lawful and we are prepared to resolve the issue in the courts.”