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With the advent of COVID-19 changing and increasing the number of challenges faced in the city of Georgetown, acting Town Clerk, Candace Nelson has stated that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) must adapt to meet these challenges.
On Friday she announced that several changes will be made in the areas of revenue collection, garbage collection, stakeholder engagement and staff’s adherence to the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination protocols.
INCREASING COLLECTABLE TAXES
Regarding revenue collection, the Town Clerk (ag) stated plainly that the Council has “no money”. She said that this is not simply something that is said but a reality of the Council.
Nelson said that it is clear that more needs to be done regarding revenue collection as, thus far for the year, the Council has only collected 65 percent of its collectable taxes. This, she explained, is due to businesses that remain in arrears. However, moving forward, she said efforts will be made to change this.
“This can be done by enforcing regulations in the Act and by designing and implementing a set of clear policies that address this question frontally. There are still many commercial and residential properties that continue to owe the Council large sums…even with the award of amnesties, some businesses are refusing or neglecting to honour their obligation to the city,” she said.
Nelson added that the Council also intends to form alliances with other regulatory bodies to collect its fair share of taxes. However, the Village Voice News questioned Nelson about whether the additional efforts would occur within a timeline and what guarantee she could give to the City that, this time around, notable improvements in revenue will be made.
Nelson said that there is no timeline being worked towards in the collection of the outstanding sum owed because the collection of taxes remains continuous. Meanwhile, regarding the assurance she can give to the public, Nelson said that what she could assure is that how the Council spends the sums received will be presented to the public in a transparent manner through auditing.
She noted too that the Council will have to find alternative means of generating revenue as consistent ‘bail outs’ from the Government should not be the only go-to for relief.
AGGRESSIVE VACCINATION DRIVE
Also singled out by the Town Clerk (ag) is the need of an “aggressive vaccination drive” to ensure that M&CC’s over 700 staff are protected.
Nelson said: “If the government, the private sector and the public sector are requiring persons to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as they now do before they do business with them, then it stands to reason that our workers must be vaccinated.”
Currently, workers are not being asked to present a vaccination card or a negative PCR test to work. The Town Clerk (ag) said that the approach will first be one of education and engagement. She has written to the Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine requesting a meeting to discuss the matter.
In the meanwhile, she has written to Heads of Departments requesting that they submit a list of staff who have been vaccinated. However, Nelson said: “Unfortunately, I have been unofficially informed that the Mayor has written to Heads attempting to instruct them not to acquiesce to my request. This is an administrative function, it is part of the moral and statutory responsibility of the collective administration and, in substance, the Mayor and Councillors have little to do with this event.”
Even so, she noted that Heads of Departments have already begun to provide the requested information.
The Council also intends to improve its relationship with the Government, private sector, Non-Government Organisations, religious bodies and community groups and organisations.
According to Nelson, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it even more crucial for the Council to communicate with the aforementioned groups as it will not be successful in its efforts in isolation.
She also spoke to the need for institutional strengthening and capacity building which would allow staff to understand their roles and responsibilities.
“This would require structural and other changes to processes and systems within the Council. As a result, our staff at every level would need to be re-educated, re-trained and re-equipped to meet new demands and challenges,” she said. Even so, the Town Clerk (ag) noted that Heads have started to supply the necessary information.
On the matter of garbage collection, Nelson told attendees that later in September, a stakeholder conference on the ‘Greening of Georgetown’ will be hosted via Zoom. She said that the matters of the City’s untidiness and the resources needed to rectify this will be addressed.