Minister within the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whittaker on Thursday engaged residents and council members of the Crabwood Creek and Number 52-Number 74, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and heard complaints about roads.
He was joined by officials from the ministry and the region, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said in a press release. The meetings formed part of a one-day local government ministerial outreach to Berbice to garner the views, issues and concerns of the communities and local and regional entities. According to the release, the specific visit to the NDCs allowed Whittaker to reinforce to the councils the need to connect with and collaborate with the residents towards this development.
He told the councils that NDCs were not expected to do the bigger things in the communities as these are the areas for the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs,) and the various government ministries.
Whittaker observed that in some NDCs people have lost confidence in their councils’ ability to function and questioned the existence of these entities. He said that as the ministry moves around the country engaging residents it has often heard the cry to get rid of the NDCs. This, he noted, may be because they are not aware of what is the NDCs’ role. He urged the members to reach out to the communities so that they will be aware of the councils’ work. The official also urged the councils to build confidence and alliances with groups in the community and to collaborate for greater development.
Meanwhile, council members during the engagement raised concerns over the overseers’ rotations. They had questions about some councils’ inability to pay some rotated overseers’ salary and allowances since in some instances they would have been paid a higher salary at their previous offices.
Whittaker explained that the ministry has taken the decision to stand the expense of the salary difference as a result of the rotation. Councillors of Number 52-74 NDC said that the $3M subvention received from the ministry to assist with the implementation of their work programmes is too small for the operations of an NDC that is an amalgamation of several communities.
Whittaker explained that the Fiscal Transfer Bill passed in the 9th Parliament seeks to correct this disparity with the allocation of subventions. He said that should this bill be signed into effect it would allow for NDCs with a bigger population and those that work effectively to be rewarded accordingly.
Councillors in Number 52-Number 74 NDC suggested raising of rates and taxes to increase their revenue collection. The NDC has been collecting 60% of its total rates and taxes.
The minister suggested to the council that increasing the rates would only put pressure on the 60% that is conforming and suggested that they seek to instead change the attitude of residents towards paying their rates and in so doing achieve a 100% collection rate.
The condition of a number of streets was of concern in both NDC areas, including Second Street, Crabwood Creek and Number 73, Well Tank Street and Number 71, First Street.
Second Street, Crabwood Creek is scheduled to have a crusher run treatment under the NDC 2012 budget but the region’s officials promised to look at other long-term rehabilitation efforts for the street. The minister promised the residents in Number 52-Number 74 that he will engage the relevant officials to determine whether the more problematic roads cannot be facilitated for rehabilitation under the region’s 2012 current work programmes. Residents’ concerns about drainage, irrigation and access dams to their farming areas will also be addressed with the relevant authorities, GINA added.