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Municipal elections delayed for a year as court wrangle goes on

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works (File photograph)

Municipal elections are to be delayed by a year after the House of Assembly backed a legal change.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, tabled an amendment to the Municipalities Act 1923 in the House of Assembly.

He acted because the Government is waiting on the outcome of a Court of Appeal case brought by the Corporation of Hamilton over the Municipalities Reform Bill.

The Government wants to take over the Corporation of Hamilton and the Corporation of St George and replace elected councils with appointed quangos.

But the attempt was halted because of the constitutional challenge in the courts.

Colonel Burch said in the House last Friday: “As of today both the Government and the Corporation of Hamilton are awaiting the decision with no indication as to the time frame.

“While the Court of Appeal’s processes are being undertaken, the Government proposes to postpone the scheduled May 2022 municipal elections to May 2023 to allow the judgment of the Court of Appeal.”

Renée Ming, a St George’s MP, said the Municipalities Act would be 100 years old next year.

She added: “It speaks to a different time and a different era. What we are seeing is progress. When we look at St George’s and the Corporation of Hamilton, we have two fundamentally different municipalities.

“There are approximately 1,300 voting residents in St George’s and approximately 50 to 60 businesses. Hamilton has 1,600 businesses and 600 residents. The desires and needs are fundamentally different.

Lovitta Foggo, the Progressive Labour Party MP for St David’s, said: “We have seen in years gone by the way in which the municipalities, some may argue … there was gerrymandering in such a way that disadvantaged certain groups of people.

“I welcome municipality reform because I would like to see a model that services the community of today and allows for persons to be in a situation where we can ensure that efficiency is met and the needs of the community can be met in a way that allows the community to thrive as well as make certain that the public purse is not being utilised in a way where monies are being spent unnecessarily.”

The Municipalities Amendment Act (No 2) 2022 that allowed for the appointment of parking enforcement officers in St George’s and Hamilton was also passed.

The Corporation of Hamilton introduced “PEOs” last September to enforce traffic laws.

But the public works ministry ordered a stand-down at the start of November so legislation could be amended.

Colonel Burch said: “This Bill will give the PEOs similar powers as traffic wardens in the Corporation of Hamilton and will permit the Corporation of St George to implement a similar parking enforcement regime.

“The revenue generated from issuing tickets will go to the respective corporation.”

Colonel Burch said that PEOs in Hamilton had issued 2,700 tickets and generated $195,950 over the short period they had operated.

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Published March 16, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated March 16, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Municipal elections delayed for a year as court wrangle goes on

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