City Hall suggests cutting staff

by Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
January 12, 2000

CITY Hall is suggesting cutting down on its manpower and using more modern technology instead to cope with its high employment costs.

A document submitted by Chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee and Deputy Mayor, Mr Robert Williams says employment eats into most of the municipality's revenue. Employment costs sucked up $50M at the municipal markets last year.

At the day care centres the figure was $46M; maternal and child welfare, $20M; cemetery, $21M and abattoir, $7.7M.

But Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary, Mr Lincoln Lewis does not agree that City Hall should so readily consider sending its staff home. The body should examine its options more thoroughly, he said.

Lewis declared that City Hall's proposals show a weak management.

The union leader made his views known when City Hall met its social partners yesterday to discuss the 2000 budget.

City Hall is suggesting a review of staff in six sections - Mayor's Office; Public Relations Department; Town Clerk's Office/Warden Corps; Personnel Department; Day Care and Maternal and Child Welfare.

Mayor Hamilton Green said it would be irresponsible of the City Council to pay out 70 per cent of its revenue in salaries. Green said if the employees do not go, the operation will grind to a halt if it does not get new revenue.

In its pre-budget document, City Hall observed that total revenue from markets for 1999 was $87M. However, $118M was spent on employment, security and cleaning at the markets.

They are proposing that stall rents be jacked to meet expenditure or that expenses be reduced, including employment. Another suggestion is that new technology be applied where possible to administer the markets and arrangements be put in place for investment opportunities and development involving the private sector.

At City Hall's day care facilities, $11M was earned last year. But $66M was spent on employment, security and supplies. It is being recommended that the $11M be increased by 100 per cent for this year.

The council will contribute a subsidy of 100 per cent and employment cost be reduced by $8M.

Support from non-governmental organisations or other business agencies should also be pursued, the document said. The Maternal and Child Welfare facilities produced no revenue for 1999 but $31.4M was spent on employment, security and maintenance. The proposal for this area is that the government contributes $5M towards operational cost.

Also, the council can subsidise the employment cost by $10M with a $5M recovery through new fees.

The Social Impact Amelioration Programme should also be approached for renovation works to be done. At the moment, this section of City Hall's services is being financed by rates and taxes collected during the year.

With the cemetery, revenue for 1999 reached $6M while $34M was expended on employment, security and maintenance. Suggestions for this facility are that a maintenance contract for the cemetery be advertised and a contract fee budgeted.

Burials should be contracted out and monitored by an officer who will report to the Engineer's Department. It is suggested that an increase in burial fees and supporting services and pursuit of a crematorium be looked at this year.

According to the document, the abattoir is also a low revenue achiever with $6.7M last year and an expenditure of $30.7M. The council is considering a 50 per cent hike in service costs and renovation works through the Urban Development Programme (URP).

City Hall thinks that the government should be approached before completion of the national budget to ensure that day care, maternal and child welfare and solid waste are included in subventions for the city. The proposed figures are $11M, $5M and $25M, respectively.

Failing this, the council said it will have to make decisions on privatisation and other non-governmental organisations investing in the operations.

Lewis said he also does not support privatisation of the City Council's facilities. He argued that many inaccurately believe the private sector has the answer to everything.

He said that where City Hall can access funds for certain areas, such as the day care, the private sector will be unable to. Williams told Lewis that tapping into such funds is not easy.

The Georgetown municipality also wants the government to approve implementation of a container tax; fuel tax; percentage of registration or licence fees for vehicles; transfer of environmental tax to the council and municipal parking fees.

Stressing the low state of the City Council's financial affairs, Williams said the body was able to give workers back pay and do other things because it is still collecting money outstanding for more than three years.

Representative of the Guyana Consumers Association, Mr Ovid Holder expressed his distress at the state of the pavements which vendors occupy. Commenting on City Hall's view that it may be overstaffed, Holder said this may be so since constables walk among the littering and encumbering pavement vendors and do nothing.

He also agreed with the container and other taxes and said parking fees should be implemented.

A Ministry of Finance representative assured City Hall that government taxes for 2000 will be up-to-date. City Hall is calling for a meeting with the government.

Others at the meeting were from the Private Sector Commission and the Local Government Ministry.

Green felt that City Hall was generally supported on its recommendations for the new estimates.

With its expenditure, City Hall is suggesting that drainage assumes priority. It is proposing to treat with all secondary drains and alleyways in the city.

The focus will be on contracting out the majority of works within the city while City Hall monitors it and it proposes using community groups as contractors.

Acquisition of suitable equipment for servicing all kokers and culverts must be a priority, it said.

There will be no major repairs to roads this year with funding from the city's budget. Emphasis will be placed on the maintenance of some roads and implementation of the Urban Development Rehabilitation Project which caters for some 14 roads at a cost of $275M with phase one being executed this year at a cost of $216M.

Expenditure on all markets will be related to maintenance costs including electricity lights and investment will be pursued for Bourda Green and Stabroek Bazaar.

The three remaining markets will be subjected to development works in keeping with the proposed investment and development profiles, the document said.

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