Local authority and government was established in Dominica during the colonial and post colonial periods. Local authority through the creation of the city council was introduced during the period of British rule and has evolved over the years from a solitary board in the capital, Roseau to individual village boards or village councils. From the origins in the late 19th century, Dominica has had two municipal boards; the Roseau town board in 1869 and the Portsmouth town board somewhere between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The exact date for the Portsmouth Town Board is not known, but the earliest document ascribed to the board is a by-law enacted in 1916.
The Portsmouth city council started with a town board which was similar to the Roseau City Council. Its constitution as a council was affected in 1954 by the enactment of the Portsmouth Town Council Act. The act, mirrored after the Roseau city council act provides a three year term of office, and comprises 13 members; eight of whom are elected and five appointed by the minister for the local government. The chairman of the city council assumes the title of mayor. The city council has the ability to govern the affairs of their respective village district.
In Portsmouth the city council is an active group with the same goals as the city council in the town of Roseau. Some of the objectives of the city councils are to enhance, beautify and develop. Though the Portsmouth city council is directly responsible for community development, it is unable to handle full scale development of the town on its own. The council relies on the government division of Local Government and Community Development, a department of the Ministry of Community Development and Gender Affairs which takes care of the development and administration of local authority / village and city councils. Although the council does not operate autonomously, funding from the central government is readily available to be disbursed to communities for development.
The city council of Portsmouth, like all other village councils in Dominica, has the following functions:
· To develop a local institution capable of managing the development of the area
· To provide opportunities for residents to contribute meaningfully to the decision making process at the local level( in their respective villages)
· To take social and economic services closer to the people who need them
· To develop leadership potential
· To foster an effective communication channel between Central Government and local communities.
The town council’s members are respected residents of the Portsmouth, most of whom are self-employed and own their own local businesses in the community. The Portsmouth local authority employs a small administrative staff. The Portsmouth town council members are as follows:
· Mayor- Errol Hill
· Council Members: Julian Brewster
Members of the administrative staff are not members of the city council in Portsmouth; their prime responsibility is to manage the council affairs via a local office. Members are: Solomon Paul and Addida Peter.
The Portsmouth town council does its utmost best to keep up the beauty of the community and promote Portsmouth’s rich heritage. Villagers have reaped the benefits of having a local government when faced with adversity. Local authority in Portsmouth acts as the voice of the community and an intermediate with the central government.
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