Outspoken Port-of-Spain mayor, Louis Lee Sing, is advising that the local government elections should be postponed and be called after reform takes place.
Despite his strong views on the matter, the mayor believes the Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM), of which he is a member, is ready to be in control of more councils if the election is called.
Lee Sing, in a Newsday interview on Wednesday, said having served as mayor of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation, he has every good reason to call for the postponement of the election. “Given the work that has been carried out with the intent of local government reform it would not help the situation that all of that work is thrown out the window and not implemented before the four-year term (is introduced) and the increased benefits to councillors are addressed,” Lee Sing said.
“I don’t hear anything on these issues at this time and I would like to see these matters addressed prior to the hosting of the election so that when the councils are elected they understand fully their mandate and they would be better compensated and be in a better position to carry out programmes given the four- year term,” Lee Sing said.
Government recently approved the White Paper on Local Government Reform which recommends increasing the term of local councils from three to four years, as well as salary increases for councillors and mayors.
Lee Sing said successive administrations have not treated reform with any measure of respect. “We have failed time and time again over the many years at local government reform. And on this occasion, indeed over the last year, there have been many consultations and a similar number of contributions made by local government practitioners. We therefore ought to see progress made on this before moving forward,” Lee Sing said.
The mayor also pointed out that councillors earned $3,500 a month while some mayors and heads of corporations take home an estimated salary of $16,000. He also noted the PNM currently controls three corporations — Port-of-Spain, San Juan/Laventille and Point Fortin. “I believe that if and when the local government elections is called, the PNM will demonstrate to all comers what it means by governance.
We control three councils out of the 14 during the last term and our three councils led the way in terms of the progressive governance and administration,” Lee Sing said.