The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Local council elections

Tuesday, 20 February 2024, 10:57 Last update: about 3 months ago

The EU and local council elections in June are around four months away. So far, the focus has mainly been on the EU elections, but the election of local councillors is also important.

Ensuring that the best people for the job are chosen means the difference between an effective and an ineffective council.

An organised local council with passionate members that is well managed can fight tooth and nail for the interests of the residents of that locality. If the government is proposing works for instance that can cause problems for people of that locality, a good council would speak up, make their voices heard and give its all to make a difference. But a council with officials who are not up to scratch would not do so.

We have seen countless examples of Mayors who fought hard over particular issues in recent years. For example, the Qala Mayor who fought over the Hondoq ir-Rummien Saga, the Sliema, St Julian’s and Swieqi mayors over the garbage situation, the Gzira mayor over delayed works in a particular street that left residents in dust for months on end, the list goes on.

There are also councils that have taken controversial decisions resulting in uproar. A recent one that comes to mind is the Mosta council over the attempt to remove trees that were placed in the heart of the locality.

Picking the right people to sit on our local councils will play a factor in our daily lives.

But voter turnout for local council elections has been low.  In 2019,

62.6% of votes were actually cast. Given the low turnout in the last general election, one wonders whether this year, the percentage would be even lower.

And this is problematic. There is a section of the population that either doesn’t seem to care about local councils, or does not see them as important. Local council elections should be more about the individuals themselves than the party they represent, as this is the level of government residents will call when there is an immediate problem.

But there’s another situation that needs tackling. Local councils know what the issues in their locality are, yet their powers have dwindled over the years. Councils can and should play a more important role, and should be given more autonomy. A plan is needed to figure out the future role of councils. For example, should local councils have a greater say in terms of major developments in their localities? Should local councils again have some LESA officers under them with which they can quickly respond to certain issues? Was it the right move to shift responsibility regarding the garbage collection schedule away from councils, given the issues we’ve seen?

These are just some ideas which can be debated, there are more. The answer in some instances may be yes, in others not. But we need to be talking about this, there should be a discussion as to what more responsibilities can be given to councils.

The local council elections are soon upon us, yet the issue of autonomy is not really being debated. This should be an opportunity for the country to debate the future of local councils, how they can be improved and what they will look like, yet we are letting it pass us by.

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