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Councils Come With Clear Mandate
Monday, 19 April 2010 10:08
In July this year, Government set up the first six of 30 constituency councils as a means of developing constituencies and those who live within these constituencies.

The core functions of the Councils are to build relevant databases on the constituencies; identify the priority needs of the constituencies; make recommendations to Government for the implementation of programmes and projects within the constituencies; help local organisations to build capacity; refer residents seeking support services to the relevant Government agencies and the private sector, assist where required in the delivery of designated services and facilitate the flow of information to and from Government.

THE ESTABLISHMENT of constituency councils was not in any means a "fly by night" decision.

In fact, according to Director of the Department of Constituency Empowerment, Kirk Humphrey, the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development, "was looking at improving delivery of service to clients for a long time".

"We wanted to ensure that people were having pleasant experiences when conducting business with us. Furthermore, we did not have a database on clients, and we found that there was much duplication taking place among Departments in the Social Services Sector. Furthermore, there was a disconnect within the communities," Humphrey said.

"Another thing we realised was that most social services are being governed by archaic legislation, which do not meet the needs of modern Barbados. We knew we needed change in this area."

And so began the necessary framework for the establishment of Constituency Councils, the first six of which were launched last July.

They include: St Michael North; St Michael North West; St James North; St George South; Christ Church South and St Philip South.

"The idea behind the Councils is to bring relevance back to the communities. They were not developed to duplicate or replace existing institutions in the social sector arena, but to help provide relevant information while reflecting the needs of Barbadians at constituency levels." said Humphrey.

The Constituency Empowerment Programme is three-fold, and comprises, the Department of Constituency Empowerment, Constituency Councils and the Constituency Empowerment Centres – the latter of which are yet to be established as one-stop shops providing welfare information, entrepreneurship ideas and to bring all the services being offered to persons in the constituencies under one organisation.

"The Department of Constituency Empowerment has been basically created to service the Constituency Councils financially and administratively and to serve as a check and balance, providing guidance and support for any programmes which have been implemented," Humphrey explained.

According to Humphrey, "to this end, the Constituency Councils must be seen as local governing bodies within the communities, seeing after the interests of persons within the constituencies."

As part of their structure, the Councils must have bi-annual meetings and report to the public what they have done in the respective communities; what they intend to do; and how monies are being spent. They will be audited at the end of each financial year, and all reports taken to Parliament.

It has been established that each Council initially would receive $100 000.00 for projects and programmes. In addition, Programme Officers attached to the Department of Constituency Empowerment must monitor the programmes of the Councils and provide assistance when needed.

"We ensure that the Councils are monitored. They must not operate "too loosely" or "too controlled," said Humphrey.

"We will see to it that they do not waste public funds and therefore, they must provide the Department with a list of planned projects for any given year.

Humphrey holds fast to the view that there is a need to give real meaning to the word community and bring back community spiritedness to the society.
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