Half a century after Local Government was abolished, a commission is set to revisit the idea through “community-based people’s assemblies”.
The Thorne Commission on Local Governance, to be chaired by Member of Parliament and prominent lawyer Ralph Thorne QC, is to be launched next Wednesday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre at 10 a.m.
The commission, which falls under the control of the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, is to oversee the process of establishing “community-based, people participatory governance structures”, a Government statement said.
Over the next year, the commission is to consult with the public and private sectors, trade unions, educational institutions and members of the public to inform the process, it said.
The statement added: “In an effort to restore a secure, positive and healthy development path to the island, it has been recognized that citizens must work collectively. Therefore, an institutional structure is required to facilitate the participation of people in national and local governance affairs.
“Key to participation will be the spirit of volunteerism, and the need for people to ‘give back’ to the country.”
In September 1969, three centuries of district and municipal government were ended with the abolition of the vestry system and disestablishment of the Anglican Church to which the vestries were linked as the official church of government. The island was divided into the eleven parish vestries, Northern and Southern Districts and briefly, the municipality of The City of Bridgetown.
Following proposals dating back to 1925, the Local Government Act of 1958 established separate administration for The City, with a mayor, six aldermen, and 12 city councillors, four for each of the city’s three wards. The first Mayor of Bridgetown was Ernest Deighton Mottley, Prime Minister Mottley’s grandfather, elected in 1959.
In April 1967, the Local Government Councils were dissolved and replaced by an Interim Commissioner for Local Government until final abolition in 1969.
Forty years later, the Freundel Stuart administration introduced 30 non-elected constituency councils with the passage of the Constituency Councils Act of 2009.
The councils, which were heavily criticised by the then opposition Barbados Labour Party as partisan, were each allocated $100,000. But the councils had no authority to deliver services or raise revenue.
The Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong, is the deputy chairman of the commission.
The other members are: Richard Carter, Krystal Howell, Jennifer Walker, Adrian Donovan, Sherwood McCaskie, Cheryl Hunte, Peter Skeete, Barney Gibbs and Mohamed Ali Nana.