[WATCH] Local government white paper proposes more responsibilities for regional committees

Different regions across Malta would be allocated specific roles and increased responsibilities depending on their characteristics • Proposal for Mayors to be full-timers

Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government and Communities, Silvio Parnis
Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government and Communities, Silvio Parnis
Government's White Paper promotional video

Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Silvio Parnis this morning launched a white paper on local government reform which he said aimed to increase the power of local governments.

The white paper consists of a wide range of proposed changes that would cater for each region by increasing the powers of Malta’s five regional committees, which were established in 2011. According to the proposal, these committees will now be referred to as regional councils and will take on a number of responsibilities of the central government.

Currently there are five regional councils, each comprising an average of 14 local councils. The proposal is for these regional councils to be increased to six and for them to take a lead in areas such as waste collection, helping local councils make use of EU funds, the maintenance of monuments not designated as national and the coordination of school facilities, among others.

Addressing a press conference on the white paper, Parnis said it was time to expect “excellence from local government and to keep the social aspects at heart” as well as special attention being given to the elderly and people with disabilities.  

This is why, he argued, people should also be able to lodge complaints and applications online, including construction applications in each locality. Technology would be embraced to increase citizens’ closeness to their local councils.

The white paper is also proposing a maximum term for Mayors, as well as a lowering of the minimum age at which one can run for such a post.

"The role of the Mayor is to monitor the Council's operations," Parnis said. "We should consider the possibility of laying down a maximum term of office of three legislatures for the Mayor."

This possible tenure would amount to a maximum of 15 years, with the role being converted to a full-time one. Parnis said that while he had publicly stated that he was in favour of such a move, he would refrain from commenting on an appropriate salary.

The White Paper also proposes the eligibility of 16-year old candidates for local council elections in a bid to increase youth participation. "Since they have been granted the right to vote in local elections," Parnis said, "then they may also be given the opportunity to contest these elections."

With a view to strengthening and enhancing effective local citizen's participation in local government operations, it is being proposed that citizens would be invited to contribute to the Work Plan during the first three months of the new local council legislature. 

An amendment to the Maltese constitution is also being proposed—Article 115A, introduced in 2001, will now recognise local government as consisting of two strata: the regional and the local. 

The White Paper reform can be read here.

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