HAMILTON, Bermuda, Mar 2, CMC – The Progressive Labour Party government has tabled legislation to turn Bermuda’s two corporations into quangos, despite overwhelming public opposition to any tinkering with the island’s twin municipalities.
Mayor of Hamilton, Charles Gosling said after Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban tabled the Municipalities Reform Act 2019 in the House of Assembly on Friday that government could be hit with a large compensation bill.
“It is a complete change in the beneficial ownership of the corporation,” said Gosling.
“If ownership is taken away, you are deserving of full and proper compensation for that.”
Quinell Francis, the Mayor of St George’s, has been a vocal opponent of the level of consultation over municipality reform, but she did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Earlier, government’s online forum showed overwhelming disapproval of proposed changes to the corporations for Hamilton and St George’s.
The site, which closed after 10 days of soliciting views, logged four in favour of turning the governance of the municipalities into quangos, with 164 against.
A second proposal, to dissolve the corporations and absorb them into the government’s administration , got four in favour, with 172 against.
The two options were presented after the Ministry of Home Affairs convened town-hall meetings last year for input on municipal governance.
Gosling acknowledged the municipalities were enacted through an act of parliament, but continued: “That doesn’t mean that it is a child of parliament. It doesn’t mean that parliament owns the assets.
“Right now, it is not my job to make it easy to calculate, nor identify, those who should be compensated.”
The bill removes municipal elections and allows the minister to appoint a mayor and four of eight councillors.
The remaining four councillors would be appointed on the recommendation of a selection committee appointed by the minister.
Gosling challenged the government’s decision to afford more authority to the minister.
“The current legislation, as amended in 2015, allows the minister so many powers to instruct and have public officials act on his behalf.
“What, and more importantly, why would you need more power than that — especially when no minister in this government has even exercised that authority?” Said Gosling.
Roban said repealing municipal elections would save about US$79,000.
He said that the offices of mayor and councillors would remain intact and there would be no job losses.