Shoulder to shoulder

Government reaffirms commitment to local councils with concrete financial support, fostering community-driven projects for societal enhancement and cultural preservation

The recent announcement, by the Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government, Alison Zerafa Civelli, of the financial schemes available to Local Councils this year was yet another confirmation Government will continue to stand unwaveringly shoulder to shoulder with local authorities for the benefit of their communities. It does so in a concrete manner, as opposed to the lip service of the past, ensuring Local Councils across the Island can keep up with their projects and initiatives.

Local Councils are in the best position to gauge the needs of their localities, and the announced schemes are intended to help them address those very needs and to implement more rewarding initiatives in the interest of the residents they represent. The Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government rightly described the financial schemes as “evidence of Government’s commitment to promoting more efficient and effective practices in the interest of all residents in our towns and villages.”

The whole system of financial schemes is an integral part of the implementation process of the National Strategic Vision for Local Government 2023-2030 launched last year, as well as the relevant measures entrenched in the Electoral Manifesto of 2022. A quick look at the financial schemes at the disposal of Local Councils throws a spotlight on this year’s robust investment:

· Cultural and Christmas Scheme

· Financial Initiative for Cleaner Localities

· Financial aid for Healthier and more Inclusive Communities

· Fund for the Maintenance of and Support to Major Central Government Infrastructural Projects

· Work Services to projects for the Development of Community Gardens

The Cultural Region Scheme is also being extended into 2025 thanks to an investment of €250,000. Other extensions include the Community Inclusive Employment Scheme with an investment of €350,000 to cover 37 Local Council jobs, and the engagement of eight Animal Steward Officers to the tune of €106,000.

As defined by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Heritage, the Arts amd Local Government, Kevin Mahoney, these useful funds and

schemes need to be delivered and distributed in a just way. He added “the main objective is for the residents of all localities to benefit the most from these funds.”

What fruit can this financial support bear? Speaking during the same occasion, the Director General of the Local Government Division, Emil Vassallo, said the announced schemes will result in various environmental, educational and cultural projects and initiatives. He added: “We look forward to receiving applications from Local Councils to help us jointly implement projects of benefit to their residents.”

These schemes are being provided at a time when several projects have been completed and many works in progress reach momentum. Local Councils need these financial injections to bring their projects and initatives to fruition. As times change, so do the challenges ahead and the need for more ideas and new services aimed strictly at further improving the quality of life of all citizens.

Last year’s remarkable experience of the whole Southern Region in its role as the Cultural Region for 2023 was based on a packed, vibrant cultural programme. It was a deserved celebration and promotion of the unique cultural heritage in the towns and villages of the region. This year it’s the Eastern Region’s turn to show off its local culture with the explicit aim of sharing it and preserving it for future generations.

Local Councils are the prime movers of societies in our towns and villages. In persistent contact with their various communities, they join hands with Government to effect the required changes in the heart of their localities while at the same time enriching the vision of the nation’s cultural heritage.

Every local council is expected to attain its just share of the support that the financial schemes provide. But it needs to be proactive, willing to come up with new ideas and proposals, and to meet the challenges from new projects and initiatives. There is no bigger achievement than making the dreams associated with these ideas and initiatives come true, a reality that benefits the residents who entrusted their representatives with the sense of responsibility and zest they see in them.

During the past five years, there were no less than 29 schemes covering a number of projects that made a difference to the quality of residents’ lives. Among them were the creation of open spaces, better accessibility and security, recreative spaces for children, and environmental maintenance,

embellishment, and cleanliness. Such projects will continue to be implemented during this year, together with various annual events such as the Christmas activities.

It will again be the Central Government authorities, the Parliamentary Secretariat for Local Government, Local and Regional Councils together, shoulder to shoulder, looking forward to more commitment and a keener sense of optimism. There is a collective awareness of the advantages of these financial schemes as the past state of abandonment and lack of motivation become a distant memory.

The various communities within all our towns and villages deserve this commitment. They also deserve to expect from us more ideas and initiatives that help change society for the better while instilling a new generation of residents looking ahead with more belief, more commitment, and more appreciation of the heritage and traditions that make of their localities such unique attractions.