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councillors getting better wages
Davis, Assistant News Editor
THE June 19 Local Government elections, the country will have
to shell out close to $190 million annually to pay incoming
councillors and mayors.
is against the background that councillors, 10 years ago,
were taking home a meagre $12,000 per month, plus a travelling
allowance of $36 for every meeting they attend. A few years
before, they were not even paid a salary. Instead, they were
given a stipend to assist with travelling and other miscellaneous
are currently paid a basic salary of $735,000 annually, up
from $476,193 since the last Local Government elections in
1998, and from $369,513 in 1996. In addition, they are given
a monthly stipend for travelling and each granted a 20 per
cent concession on motor vehicle imports.
mayoral counterparts in rural towns are paid an average of
$1.2 million annually, plus perks. The mayors of Kingston
and Montego Bay are paid more than their colleagues in rural
parishes. Those salaries could be increased, depending on
whether a salary review committee believes it is warranted
at this time.
the People's National Party (PNP), which has control of 169
of the 227 Parish Council divisions islandwide, and the Opposition
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which controls the remaining 58
divisions, have been boasting about the high-calibre candidates
they will be fielding in the elections.
have a highly qualified group of candidates representing the
party," said Maxine Henry-Wilson, the PNP's General Secretary.
"As a matter of fact, I think both parties have strong
candidates, which probably explains why there is so much interest
in the upcoming election."
'Babsy' Grange, a Deputy Leader of the JLP, agrees. She said
her party's decision to go after "really solid candidates"
was simply an attempt to bring "more respectability to
the office of the councillor." She added that "we
are bringing to the table a higher level of performance, more
respectability and integrity."
are those, however, who see money as the real reason for the
interest being shown in running for a Parish Council seat.
"It's not my intention to broadbrush anybody," said
president of the James Avenue Small Business Association in
Ocho Rios, Tan Young. "It, however, would appear that
there is a direct link between what councillors are now being
paid not to mention the impending increases and
the people who are now running for the office. It can't be
that all of a sudden everybody wants to serve their country."
Silvera, the sitting PNP Councillor for the Gayle division
in St. Mary, who will not be contesting the upcoming poll,
also sees a connection. "It's indeed astonishing the
amount of interest that has been shown in this election,"
she said. "In my case, I was the overwhelming choice
of the delegates yet... I was denied the chance to run. The
party later resolved the issue but I decided to step down
anyway. It's a reasonable question to ask why all this interest.
The remuneration package, I suppose, could have a lot to do
Mary Member of Parliament, Dr. Neil McGill, taking a cue from
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who last year said "the
hustling mentality" had to be eliminated from Parish
Councils, said there has to be more accountability at the
local level. "Everybody wants to be mayor but not everybody
can," he said.
Cummings, MP for Central Kingston and a former councillor,
said that while money has played a role in the calibre of
persons now running for a Parish Council seat, that was not
the main factor. "I believe people genuinely want to
get involved to serve at the local level," he said. "It's
a lot of sacrifice. It has to be more than just money."