Buontempo urges PN ‘to stop using local councils as political football’

Parliamentary secretary for local councils Stefan Buontempo says reform of local enforcement system to be announced next year

Parliamentary secretary Stefan Buontempo (file photo)
Parliamentary secretary Stefan Buontempo (file photo)

Parliamentary secretary for local councils Stefan Buontempo appeared to be unperturbed by the harsh criticism leveled against him by the Nationalist Opposition, as he read off his prepared speech, pledging financial help and training in good governance to local councils.

He did however urge the Nationalist Opposition “to stop using local councils for propaganda”.

“This is a genuine appeal so that together we make of local councils effective institutions. The challenges are there and we can never pretend we can solve them overnight. Short-term measures will only harm them,” the junior minister said.

He said the government will not “deceive” local councils by promising them unsustainable schemes while accusing the previous administration of bankrupting local councils.

“I will not allow a repetition of what happened between 2008 and 2013 when local councils’ capital expenditure was of €70 million while revenue from schemes amounted to only €24 million.”

Referring to a proposal by the PN to give local councils 10% of the car licence fees, which they could spend on road works in the locality, Buontempo asked why the PN never implemented it when it was in government.

Buontempo said the government gave priority to local councils and acknowledged the importance of local governance “an institution close to the people”.

He accused the previous administration of having used local councils as political football.

He said that the government wanted local councils to be sustainable. Buontempo said youths were both the present and the future and that is why the government believed in the Vote 16.

According to Buontempo, the Opposition refused to accept a reform in how local council elections should be held. He said that, while there was agreement that elections should be held every five years, there were divergences on what should be done with the 2017 elections. The government opted to skip them and hold all elections in 2019.

“The budget creates a mechanism by which the funds allocated for the 2017 elections will now be used by local councils to invest in their localities,” he said, adding that elections held every five years would allow local councils to better allocate their funds.

Next year, the government will announce the decision of the local enforcement system reform.

Buontempo said he “was surprised” by the Opposition’s criticism on the live-streaming of local council meetings despite the schemes pushed forward by the government, including internet service.

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