March 9, 2000
The City Council does not have enough money to run Georgetown properly. Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, who is chairman of the council's finance committee, has written the Minister within the Ministry of Local Government Mr Clinton Collymore asking for a meeting. The draft estimate of expenditure for this year considerably exceeds the estimate of revenue. The council had promised that there would be no increase in rates before 200l. It is therefore asking the government to allow it to institute new sources of revenue and has indicated that if this is not done conditions in the city will deteriorate rapidly. Mr Williams has indicated that Day Care, Maternal and Child Welfare Centres could face closure, road works would be halted and drainage works and security for properties in the city, including sluices and kokers, would be affected.
The council has a case. Since the city was radically expanded from its original boundaries there has never been a coming to terms with the amount of money needed to enable the council to carry out its multifarious tasks properly. Everyone complains about poor collection of rubbish, flooding when there is rain, bad roads and so on but the debate should really start from an efficient and realistic assessment of what it would take to run the city properly. Having arrived at that figure, it would be necessary to work out how the necessary revenue could be raised.
Over the years there have been proposals to allow the council to put a tax on containers which damage city roads, to permit it to run a lottery, to allow it to introduce parking arrangements which would entail paying fees, in short to find new sources of revenue beyond the traditional rates and taxes, income from the markets and so on. It is time for the government to take the situation seriously and respond. First of all, it should set an example by paying any arrears of taxes on government properties. It is true that this is an old abuse that goes back to the previous government. It is also true that many citizens do not pay their rates and taxes promptly and that in some cases these rates and taxes are well below what they should be. There are those who want to have a clean city without paying for it. But government should now set the standard. Apart from this, it should consider and decide on empowering the council to find new sources of income. The council, to its credit, is also seeking to engage in joint ventures with the private sector to develop some of its assets that have fallen into disuse, like the Luckhoo Park swimming pool. This was once a healthy and popular venue. It could possibly become a money spinner but the capital outlay to put it back in good condition would be huge.
No one can run the city properly with the present revenues. The government should talk seriously to the council about its plans, indeed it should see the council as a potential partner in development as if City Hall is financially empowered to do a better job than has been done so far this would give everyone a lift. Everyone has been demoralised by the stacks of rubbish, the bad roads and the flooding of yards as soon as there is a really heavy downpour. Some of the ideas seem feasible and it is hard to justify further delay.