Category: Politics

What is takes to become an effective Councillor

Introduction

Some individuals have been actively participating in local elections for many years, while others are contemplating their first run in the upcoming May 2024 local elections in our country. Even those who have extensive experience in local government may need to reassess their methods and consider a change in their approach. Newcomers to this field are beginning to realize the various aspects they need to work upon to become effective councillors.

In addition, major political parties often prioritize quantity over quality, placing a strong emphasis on an individual’s capacity to gather votes. Especially during their initial stages, individuals may encounter challenges as they establish themselves.

Furthermore, the absence of sufficient candidate training necessitates that those aspiring to run successful election campaigns must begin their preparations from scratch. Therefore, selecting the right approach is pivotal for a strong beginning.

The Role of a Councillor

An elected councillor has numerous responsibilities to bear in mind if they genuinely aim to make a positive impact, both in their local community and in the lives of the residents they represent. Some of these responsibilities include:

  • Leading and formulating strategies and plans for their community, ensuring a balance between the diverse needs of residents and the locality, while identifying the priorities that the Local Council should address.
  • Guaranteeing democratic responsibility for the public services rendered and holding service providers to the Council answerable to ensure the most effective use of the compensation they receive.
  • Engaging with key stakeholders to unite everyone in addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges.
  • Overseeing the affairs of the Local Council, particularly by ensuring thorough scrutiny of its work, plans, decisions, efficiency, and resource utilization.
  • Collaborating with colleagues to facilitate resident participation, involving local businesses and other stakeholders in decision-making processes to enhance civic engagement within the community.
  • Working with colleagues to maintain an environment in which the community can thrive and enjoy the best possible quality of life.

It’s crucial to bear in mind that when councillors operate with transparency, responsibility, inclusiveness, and effectiveness, they frequently earn recognition and gratitude from residents when the time comes for them to elect their representatives.

Understanding What Needs to Be Done

As previously mentioned, a councillor, as a democratically elected representative, has a duty to act as a catalyst for uniting everyone and guiding them in the same direction. To achieve this, they must first integrate seamlessly into the councillor group, regardless of their background or political affiliation. With this purpose in mind, a councillor can serve as the link connecting residents to the Local Council, fostering synergy between the desires, expectations, and actions of the Local Council and the community.

Irrespective of any training candidate may have received during an electoral campaign, it’s important to note that being elected as a councillor doesn’t automatically make one an expert in all matters. Moreover, following their election, it becomes imperative that elected councillors  actively participate in all organized training sessions to enhance their skills the attitude they need to embrace, and to augment their knowledge on how to take well-informed decisions. Equally important is the effective participation in council meetings and other activities organized by the council, the engagement in public discussions and consultation sessions, and their accessibility so that residents would know how and where to contact them.

 

Mario Fava
President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Mayor’s Role

Much like individuals in the workforce, Mayors commence their day by rising early and prepare for their full-time duties. The backgrounds and professions they come from can vary widely, covering fields such as education, public service, legal practice, factory employment, transportation, medical practice, and even retirement.

Similar to other employees, they encounter a series of challenges and problems throughout the day, and, like any other worker, they must address these issues. For those who are self-employed, there’s the added responsibility of ensuring they earn their daily income since a Mayor has no fixed monthly salary.

However, there’s a notable difference: when the workday ends and others are heading home to their families, the Mayor might not always make it home at that time. This is because they have to visit the Council office to handle the issues and matters that would have arisen during the day. During these visits, they meet with the residents and discuss the work and priorities for the upcoming days, sometimes involving the Executive Secretary should the latter would be still in office. One must emphasize that this is not a critical comment towards Executive Secretaries but rather because the Mayor’s visit coincides with the end of the Council employees’ workday.

Moreover, during the day, especially for those working in the private sector, the mayor may need to take some hours of leave to attend meetings with government officials, organizations, or other government agencies. They may also need to meet with the Council’s architect regarding a local project, provided there are no court sessions due to legal cases against the Local Council.

By May or June, numerous Mayors and Councillors, especially those employed in the private sector, may have already exhausted their vacation leave due to Council-related responsibilities. This underscores the need for workplace flexibility and family-friendly policies.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t conclude at this point. In contrast to Parliamentary Secretaries or Ministries, Mayors lack support staff like a chief of staff official, secretariat staff, public relations officer, or a personal assistant. This implies that if they wish to issue a statement or a press call or draft speeches for specific events, they must manage these tasks themselves, most often after their usual working hours. Should they need to seek third party advice or consultancy services they would need to fork payment for these sought services out of their own pockets

One must keep in mind that regardless of challenges and difficulties, what happens in the locality always falls under the Mayor’s responsibility!

I emphasize this because this is the reality faced by every Mayor or Regional President. This is the life one must lead to provide effective service in the community. I stress this not to criticize but to highlight that not every Mayor follows this path, and not every Mayor dedicates the necessary time and effort to their Council.

It is important that, after 30 years of Local Government in our country, this democratic and constitutional position is to be seriously considered. It is necessary and imperative that we have full-time mayors because their responsibilities, including legal ones, are greater than those of backbenchers (and I say this with full respect for the latter). Backbenchers do know what being a mayor means, as many of them have been in this position as well.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial for every Mayor or Regional President to fully embrace these responsibilities. If they ever fail in their administrative duties, or, even worse, in managing finances, they must be held completely accountable for their actions.

Elected officials, including Mayors, Councillors, and Regional Presidents, must fully grasp the weight of their responsibilities, which involve serving the entire community without showing favouring specific residents or employees. In the context of mayoral and regional presidential elections, it is imperative to establish well-defined criteria for candidates, taking into account their relevant past experiences, to guarantee the promotion of transparency and the adherence to principles of good governance.

There is a need for reform in the electoral process, which involves holding distinct elections for the positions of Mayor and Councillors during the same electoral event. Political parties should be required to announce their candidates for both Mayor and Councillors well in advance, resulting in the issuance of two separate ballot papers—one for the election of the Mayor and the other for selecting potential Councillors. This approach would offer greater transparency and provide candidates with a clear understanding of the roles they would undertake if elected. These are the crucial discussions we must engage in during the upcoming election season.

 

 

Mario Fava
President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Local Leadership

A Councilor plays a crucial role in local governance, ensuring that local democracy functions effectively and garners the trust of residents. Councilors act as a vital link connecting residents, the Council, and the Central Government. Effective local leadership is the backbone of the Local Government, underscoring the need to empower Local Councils with a more central role in national decision-making.

The Councillor’s work is a cornerstone of this effort. Adopting a “bottom-up” approach is essential to engage residents in critical thinking, understanding, and decision-making in response to the challenges they face. Councillors should wholeheartedly embrace this role, gaining a deeper understanding of the local demographics and the primary challenges residents encounter; this enables them to advocate for equality and inclusion, representing the entire spectrum of society within the community, including those who are often marginalized, such as children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds in terms of beliefs, races, or those facing social issues.

Councillors play a pivotal role in ensuring that the results of their work shape the residents’ perspectives and the latter are to be taken into account before any Council decision. It’s essential to communicate the outcomes of these decisions through various media channels to keep residents informed. Residents not only have the right to be consulted and participate in decisions but also to be fully informed about each and every decision. Councillors are expected to listen, prioritize, and, above all, understand the unique needs of each individual they represent.

To carry out these responsibilities effectively, Councillors must have an in-depth understanding of their locality and the community they serve. This involves the gathering of information about various aspects, including the diversity of nationalities, spoken languages, resident demographics, local employment, infrastructure, public transportation, cultural dynamics, healthcare facilities, and long-standing community projects. Evaluating the long-term viability of these projects and ensuring that residents are well-informed about them is equally essential.

Effectively representing a wide range of community groups is a complex task, considering the continuously changing social, political, and cultural landscape. Communities continually change, and Councillors must stay attuned to these shifts and emerging realities. Councillors frequently gain valuable insights about the community when individuals approach them with their concerns. Exploring the locality on foot, outside the confines of a car, can unveil important nuances and issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. These experiences underscore the importance of recognizing that multiple perspectives exist on every issue, and determining the best course of action is not always straightforward.

 

 

Mario Fava
President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A crucial government decision – national political decision on the use of caravans

During the last days we have assisted to a very important decision taken by the central government towards the suspension of an application by Infrastructure Malta for a temporary caravan site despite the various comments on the rights and obligations of caravan owners. On the contrary one would also listen to various residents’ rights towards a free access to our beaches. Many are those caravan owners who during the summer period would occupy our beaches without leaving any foreshore access. For the general benefit and interest there should be various open discussions with different stakeholders the outcome of which could lead to better solutions in the interest of everybody.

 

Introduction

One needs to kick off from the point that not each locality has the benefit of open recreational spaces for its residents.  Moreover, there are a large number of families who live in apartments without an adequate balcony, yard or garden for their children to recreate themselves; therefore, the number of recreational zones is somehow imperative. We need to understand and take care of the social and recreative aspects of our residents; it transpires that a number of families can’t afford  a decent residence and would instead publicly occupy caravan sites, with the latter being their only shelter.

One has to exercise caution and adopt a wider approach to avoid conflicts amongst those with different priorities for the use of the same land including farmers.

Rural zones with lesser population, agricultural zones and natural resources are very scarce in Malta hence we should focus more on our priorities.

In order to avoid conflict, there should be a holistic plan in place when dealing with protected land, camping, hiking and picnic sites.  There needs to a clear distinction between open country spaces and coastal area spaces to avoid undue pressure on the latter.

This is considered to be a seasonal pressure; coastal areas might bear higher undue pressure during the summer months and could be the cause of conflict amongst those occupying the space with caravans and other residents who would visit the area for a couple of hours for recreational purposes. It would be unfair that the same individuals would hijack public zones and grounds for long periods.

One has to distinguish between structures that are trailer driven and electric camper vans.

 

Priorities

Undoubtedly, many believe that there has to be particular spaces allocated for this type of hobby. If this would be the case, there has to be an understanding of what is best for our country, especially for localities which are designated to host this recreational concept. Are we opting for smaller spaces in a larger number of sites or are we going for fewer but larger sites? Would we be seeking and understanding the impact this would have on the tourism industry? Are we seeing to the fact how these coastal sites could create conflict with the use of slipways not just because these would be obstructed, but also because of the additional issues of boat trailers’ owners who would want to take their boats to and from the sea through the boat ramps. Are we planning law enforcement?  This should be the point for a holistic discussion which the government has wisely decided upon.

Undoubtedly, smaller spaces scattered around the island create less impact than larger ones which are however fewer. This consideration is not just about the visual impact but also about the impact on the infrastructure, the overall upkeep, drainage system, water supply etc. I believe that in larger sites one needs to carry out an environmental impact assessment.  On the other hand, smaller sites scattered around the island are more difficult to be managed by the authorities.

 

The Local Council’s involvement

As like other matters happening in our localities, we have to understand the involvement of our Local Councils. It is a fact that caravan sites do create certain issues and very often police forces would need to be called in to take over situations which at times would go beyond control.

We, as a nation and society, are barely disciplined to protect the heritage that we own and which we are our bound to pass on to our future generations.

It is highly important that the Local Councils are to be involved in the making of such policies.  This is due to the fact that the Local Councils are the closest from all entities to the residents and their locality; elected members can easily understand the challenges of their residents since they reside with them round the clock. These situations are to be used to our advantage thus, because whatever is implemented can then be rarely opposed.

Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Salini, Żonqor and Żejtun are some of the few challenging zones that come to mind. We have to carefully keep in mind other camping and picnic zones where in most of the situations one finds illegal structures that were meant to be temporary however ended up being permanent. These situations create conflict with the daily temporary users of the area.  This brings us back to the argument on the importance of law enforcement for the right balance of land usage.

 

Land permits and usage

One must clearly differentiate between temporary and short-term permits.  According to my current understanding, nowadays, there are only temporary permits without a clear indication of their expiry.  When considering a national policy will we be delving upon the issuance of daily, weekly or monthly permits? Should granted permits be automatically renewed following their expiry? Is it just that a caravan owner would leave his own car parked in the caravan space so that same would self-reserve his own space upon his return the following weekend? Is it fair that there isn’t better use of such public spaces with a fair chance of the same space being enjoyed by the public at large? Is it fair and just that some may choose to literally hijack the coastal area for the summer period leaving no proper access to the residents and hotel guests? Should there be an effective alternating system in the issue of permits, with a proper and organized waiting list for each indicated caravan site?

Each site has to be managed by an appointed site manager who will ensure that such abuse won’t happen. This role will be the communication link between the Local Council, the authorities and the caravan owners themselves. The latter should appoint an Administrator from amongst themselves for the sake of a faster and more efficient level of communication. I strongly believe that the Administrator and the site Manager can very efficiently coordinate a booking system that allocates booking slots and thus avoid over-crowding; this is beneficial both for the caravan owners and for the same site to be publicly enjoyed.

One should consider how this model could be jointly developed with the private sector where the government would appoint private companies to administer these sites.

I believe that these questions could stir a sound and interesting discussion for the proper identification of the most suitable mechanism for the running of similar sites.

 

New niche in the tourism industry

A holistic plan for this sector in the long run could create a new niche for the tourism industry. For this to be operationalised there needs to be a sight energy plan which should preferably be derived from clean and alternative sources, an infrastructure of rapid charging pillars, new drainage systems, water supply and other sanitary services including strong internet connections and other daily necessities for individuals to avoid unnecessary daily commuting.  It would be ideal should these camping sites be promoting local produce; this would give higher visibility and promotion to the local culture and traditions.  Such authentic promotion would give Maltese sites added advantage over European ones.

Should Malta be looking towards such concept we have to ensure a safe and sound transport connectivity between the airport, the caravan sites and Malta’s main attractions including Ċirkewwa, Valletta, Mdina and Kottonera.

These sites should bear sufficient information on pathways and rural cycling routes leading to certain areas of interest like Rabat, Dingli, Qrendi/Żurrieq, Siġġiewi/Għar Lapsi, Marsaxlokk/Tas-Silġ and others.

In such zones one could possibly consider the cultivation of fresh herbs for self-consumption.

All of these initiatives give our sites a local particular identity which would eventually attract tourists who would be specifically looking for these types of surroundings for their vacation.

 

Conclusion

These sites could provide a twofold experience to the tourists and local travellers; it’s either an unforgettable positive experience or otherwise a totally negative experience even to those who would not make use of such space.

Therefore, in each intervention one has to ensure that spaces which are designed to specifically cater for caravans should ensure higher standards of hygiene, protection of the environment, security and accessibility.

I believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to hobby caravan enthusiasts to be out and about, however this hobby has to be in conformity with the natural surroundings and those living in the area.

In all this there has to be total synergy and communication between the government entities and agencies for works to be carried out during the most appropriate periods. It would not make sense at all that structural works and sites identification are carried out during peak months when such sites would be high in demand and full of people as this could unnecessarily leave a negative impact.

I must say that political commitment coupled with proper planning and total synergy between all parties involved, towards this ever-growing sector could undoubtedly expand and generate public revenues.

 

 

Mario Fava
President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The resident’s participation strengthens democracy – Għarb Local Council

This was the theme being discussed during the Conference which was organised in a leading Gozo hotel on Saturday 16 July.  The event also marked the 25th year of service the present Mayor David Apap Agius has given to the local council in his current role.

David – the people’s person

I have known David for quite a number of years and he is the type of character with whom you can tend to disagree on a lot of matters however, his outstanding trait is outstanding that one would know where he stands with him at all times. Besides, one can consider David to be a people’s person who would constantly know what is happening in his locality at all times. Along with other counsellors and Local Council staff he managed to uplevel Għarb to the extent of being the envy of other Gozitan and Maltese localities. This is due to the fact that they have managed to successfully participate in activities and initiatives which were beneficial to the residents of this picturesque locality; a locality which is yet unruined from the ‘progress’ of development.  David, wish you well and may you keep on pursuing with your work towards the Locality you believe so much in.

The Conference

The conference mentioned earlier on had the valid participation of various representatives from around Europe.  Participants from Poland, Serbia, Romania, Lithuania, Greece, Italy and Turkey participated in the conference which focused on the citizen’s participation in the strengthening of democracy.

Amongst the main speakers, there was the valid contribution of President Emeritus of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, Parliament Secretary for Local Government Onor. Alison Zerafa Civelli, regional president Dr. Samuel Azzopardi, Gozo speaker for the Opposition Hon. Alex Borg and Director for Local Government Marisa Pisani.

During my speech in this conference I spoke how the residents’ and citizens’ participation in decision taking situations constitute more vibrant democratic societies.  We can’t have a democratic society if there would not be the right and effective mechanisms of accountability; good local and regional governance are also of utmost importance. Good governance is key to the fundamental principles of local government leadership; it is the main pillar on which the local and regional European Council Charter of leadership is structured.

 

Nowadays, local governments are being faced with a number of challenges and hence the residents’ participation in decision taking is somehow crucial.  If the resident feels that he is not part of the decision taking mechanism and initial discussions and if he feels that the Local Council is not equipped to effectively implement change, he would eventually lose interest and the whole argument would fizzle down.

It is highly important that the resident is at the core of this decision taking mechanism; when there is enough subject knowledge and proper brainstorming then the consultation stage would be a somehow swift process and this would serve as a learning and improvement opportunity of the original proposals. With such a mechanism in place, the citizen and the resident would comfortably feel they pertain to their society and their region due to healthy discussions and consultations.  This is what constitutes democratic societies.

It is up to each council and region to find the best method of engaging their respective residents in any consultation process; this could take place in various ways and means including meetings, focus groups, conferences, referendums and others.  Practices which would work in certain councils and regions would not necessarily work in others.  The bottom-up approach is crucial and somehow very important.

Mario Fava
President

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Strategic collaboration with the Local Government

As elected members of the Local Councils, the Mayor and the councillors have one common goal to offer the best possible service to their residents in order to make a difference in their quality of life.

As we all know, local councils within our country do not have the autonomy of other councils in European countries. Most of the time, Local Councils would depend on the Central Government’s agencies and entities who need to work in synergies and clearly understand their different roles, responsibilities and deliverables.

Whilst most of the entities and agencies are managed by contract workers of their respective agencies, the political section of the Local Councils mainly depends on the residents’ votes to be elected.  Undoubtedly, a sheer laid back attitude from the elected Mayor would result in residents’ lack of trust for forthcoming elections.

If one had to take a snapshot of the current situation one must acknowledge that there is room for improved cooperation between the two, most of all on the communication aspect being at the top of their agenda.

The lack of communication, like in any relationship between two human beings would result in dispute, lack of respect and sheer cold silence which would eventually lead to the separation of their relationship.

The same goes with the current argument we are dealing with; apart from a high degree of communication, the latter needs to be constant, rapid and transparent.  This enhances the level of trust between both parties who commonly bear the same believes, that of assisting their residents in the best possible manner.

An important and efficient way to deal with residents’ requests and complaints is that instead of having a generic email address, issues should ideally be addressed by individuals who would actually be in a position to assist their residents.  This could be done as long as there would be no designated personnel to handle this process.

Back in 2019, prior to the Local Council election there was the launch of a particular initiative where a number of officials from various agencies and entities were assigned to a particular Local Council.  These officials were to be identified as the decision taking key individuals within their own organisation who own a good know how about the Local Council’s daily operation. This initiative would ensure acceptable response time coupled with appropriate exchange of information; additionally, this gives the added benefit of having key contact people with whom to liaise with when pressing issues need to be resolved.

It is crucially important that there needs to be enhanced cooperation and coordination between these entities, agencies and Local Councils so that areas which are still unowned and unhandled are eventually tackled and addressed.

Industrial zones and housing estates parameters, security during children’s schools opening and closing times, local tribunals and enforcement, water and electricity repairs, road contractors, work permits, land’s authority and others are just some matters one could easily identify.

The same level of cooperation has to be also extended to a number of organisations with pressing issues and which represent certain sectors like the business chamber, the construction industry, private road and telecommunication contractors.

This should be doable if we all understand that when there are common working grounds we would be facilitating our way of life and those of our residents.  Shifting of responsibilities from whoever side it comes only increases the residents’ frustration and cascades the perception that both the Local Councils and entities are useless.

No one will ever effect this change on our behalf If there is not going to be this collective collaboration to change this perception (which at times is not).  Undoubtedly like all mayors would wish the best for their respective localities, likewise, the top brass of the various entities would wish the best for their entities too.

For this to be operationalised we need each other’s support; the longer we take to digest and implement the longer we would keep being the problem instead of the solution everybody seeks to have

Mario Fava
President

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Should there be a local Ombudsman Office?

by Mario Fava – President LCA

Moving with the times is important – everything that has a beginning along time has to be renewed and everything which has a start does not necessarily has to have the same ending.  Every taken decision has to be followed through for continuity purposes.

This is what should have happened in the Local Government context way back in 2019 when Parliament was discussing the reform in Local Government.  Reforms are meant to bring on change, renewability and above all ensure that the resident benefits from such changes.

So, on the point of an improved service to the resident, I would like to forward my recommendations on something which could bring forth a complete change about how the Local Councils could be more efficient and uplevel their service.  This brings on increased confidence and trust from the residents and thus brings both parties closer together.  The Ombudsman for Local Government is a useful tool for the Local Government and such model is being used in other countries.

What is the Ombudsman role?

The primary duties of an elected and appointed Ombudsman are to investigate complaints of individuals against companies, organisations/departments and public entities. The Ombudsman is an independent and impartial official who offers his free of charge service to the citizen. Received complaints by the Ombudsman would generally be those unresolved complaints companies, entities, departments or organisations or those where the citizen would still feel he was treated unfairly. The adopted procedure for the Ombudsman to decide which case to investigate is handled by the Ombudsman himself. Like many other countries, Malta offers this service on a national level.

Why should there be a Local Ombudsman?

The Local Ombudsman has to be the institution that is in line with the same obligations on a local level, thus directly effecting the Local Councils. It has an investigative role about complaints being put forward by the public against the Local Councils and others put forward by the Local Councils against government entities and departments.

This new and independent institution has to investigate anything that has to do the with the Local Government.  We are providing residents who are neither being treated fairly nor given the chance to air their concerns the right channel to do so. On the other hand, this institution serves as the right platform for Local Councils whenever government departments and entities are not being just and treating Local Councils as Local Government

This institution is also the right space for a case to be put forward against any elected members or members within the administrative section of the Local Councils should they fail to comply with their ethical behaviour or obligations. There are situations where there is a Board of Governance which has never attracted the proper respect and trust from those who form part of the Local Government within our country. No authority which lacks teeth could ever leave a proper impact. Therefore, the Ombudsman Office has to have the role to forward its recommendations to the Minister whenever the latter has to provide an adequate reply and thus abide by these recommendations.

Undoubtedly this gives more power both to the resident and the Local Council since they both feel that there is an authority of their trust which would intervene on their behalf whenever they feel ignored.

  • The duties of the Ombudsman

For the Local Government, the Ombudsman, amongst others, must investigate allegations of wrong leadership which would have created an injustice with a resident or Local Council. A clear example that comes to mind is when there is lack of adherence to the law which stipulates that the resident has to be inclusive and informed about the Council’s business plan.

The Ombudsman has to ensure that even such services which are being offered won’t make a distinction between Regions, offered services and social inclusion

In the occurrence of such cases, the local Ombudsman has to work on doable recommendations and forward them over to the Local Government division where one has to ensure that these recommendations will be actioned in line to the ones of the Auditor General.

  • Good governance

One could drive his car from one destination to another and along the road creates various contraventions for which one could be penalized.  On the other hand, one could make the same trip with the same vehicle, abides by the traffic rules and still reaches his destination.  The outcome is that in the first scenario one would have reached his destination with a number of traffic contraventions whereas during the second scenario one would have arrived safe and sound.  This also applies in leadership; leadership could be just and transparent or it could be corrupt.

Such measure is of utmost importance since both the citizen and the Local Council would ensure an enhancement in good Governance.

Therefore, what leads to wrong administration?

Wrong administration is the result of various factors namely: excessive lengthiness for decisions to be executed, wrong actions taken or lack of action at all, poor law enforcement, lack of provided information on certain measures or decisions, lack of proper record keeping, lack of effective investigations, lack of adequate replies to what is questioned, false declarations taking place that could lead to corrupt information, wrong consultation and unactioned promises; all of these shortcomings could happen by the Local Councils, the Central Government and entities which pertain to it

In the eventuality that these occur from the Local Councils, the residents could approach the local Ombudsman whereas the Local Councils could refer to the Ombudsman should such mishaps occur from the Local Government’s side, it’s departments or entities.

We are thus ensuring that such a measure reinforces the rights of the resident and his representatives and is the model of not just good Governance but the overseeing of the rights of both the public in general and those of the Local Councils.

  • Published recommendations

The recommendations forwarded by the Ombudsman must to be published while the identity of the person putting forward the allegations must be kept anonymous should that be needed and requested. It is of public interest that there should be the details of what is being investigated, the investigation itself and the recommendations forwarded along with having in place the necessary regulatory framework to ensure that these recommendations are executed. Such reports should contribute towards bench markings of the Local Councils’ performance, entities, and government agencies.

I strongly believe that such an initiative could and will increase and consolidate interest and trust towards the duties of the Local Councils and would surely help to fade away any wrong perceptions in their regard.

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Valletta,,Malta,-,September,23,2016:,Auberge,De,Castille,Dates

Good Governance – Local Level

In 2019, 456 Councillors were elected in order to form 68 new Local Councils. This was after the population of every locality in Malta and Gozo voted to appoint their representatives on the local level.

Although we are talking about Local Councils and Councillors, they still have to work and operate responsibly. They need to realise that once they are working with the people’s money, they have to do so with good governance. What is this good governance that we hear so much about?

Good Governance

That one operates within the framework of good governance is something that comes naturally to those who work genuinely and with the best interest of those they represent. This is something obvious, no guidelines are needed for this principle to be embraced. Nonetheless, back in 2008, the Council of Europe embraced the decision of the Council of Ministers, with this decision being taken on 15th October 2007 in Valencia, Spain, where twelve principles for good governance were adopted.

In simpler words, good governance means that there must be responsibility and good conduct in matters related to the public and public management. The twelve guiding principles are:

  • Representation and Participation
  • Responsiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Transparency
  • Rule of Law
  • Ethical Conduct
  • Competence and Capacity
  • Innovation and Openness to Change
  • Sustainability and Long-Term Orientation
  • Sound Financial Management
  • Human Rights and Diversity
  • Accountability

This agreement was endorsed by all the member states of the Council of Europe, with the aim of strengthening the will to ensure that this key democratic principle is protected. Let us take a deeper look at the principles that form the basis of this value.

Representation and Participation

The first principle towards good governance is founded on the importance of free participation and an open democratic process. This is a process which must be worked on at the local level of that particular country. At this stage, citizens are the core and the centre of activity because they are directly involved in choosing their representatives. Every man and woman should make their voice heard in this democratic process and nobody should try to deny this fundamental right. This participation is based on freedom of expression. This also holds true for those who might feel less privileged or vulnerable, because in a process such as this, everyone is and should be considered as equal. In this whole process, while the will of the majority is carried out, one must also consider and respect the opinion of the minority.   

Responsiveness

With responsiveness, reference is being made to the way the elected politician has to respond, in a way where the objectives, the rules, the structures and the procedures are adopted in a legitimate manner and as expected by citizens. Excess bureaucracy or reluctance to enact reforms or strategies which are beneficial to the population should not be allowed.

This is particularly true for public service, where we must ensure that this is served and performed. Apart from this, we must also ensure that citizens’ complaints are looked into within an adequate and reasonable amount of time, and that they are given a timely response.

Efficiency

This principle ties well with the prior principle. Efficiency means that there must be results for the objectives that have been agreed upon. This materialises by using the resources available in the best way possible, be they human resources or financial. There should be clear indicators of management so that it is possible to evaluate and measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the services offered. An auditing exercise should be done on a regular basis so that assessments can be made on what can be improved in operational matters.

Transparency

Every decision that is taken must be made within the framework of the regulations and the legal framework within which we are working. We must ensure that every citizen can freely access any type of information. This access must be available whether or not it is mandatory for it to be specified within the same regulations. At the same time, data protection must be ensured as required by law, such as in a process of competition for procurement. This helps foster trust between the Council and the residents because it would be clear to everyone that the intention of the Council is to put the best interests of the citizens at the forefront.

Rule of Law

We have heard a lot about this principle in the last few months, but it is perhaps only few who have managed to explain in a simple manner what these two words mean. Rule of law means that we must have trust in and follow what the law says and what is decided by our Courts. On the other hand, we must ensure that laws are being adopted in the same way for everyone, with impartiality and equality. 

Ethical Conduct

That one behaves ethically is not listed in any law. There is what we call moral, fiscal and political ethics. The three of them carry different weight, but all three have the same importance. The common good must always come before personal interests. Ethical conduct should ensure that there are strong measures in place so as to leave no room for corruption. One must be clear when it comes to conflict of interests. These must be declared from the start and there cannot be any involvement of that person; not in the discussion of the subject, and even more so in the process of decision making.

Competence and Capacity

It is necessary that the abilities of those that have the power to act and bring about change are constantly strengthened. This is so that a superior and up-to-date service is always given. This should lead to the continued motivation of people, especially public officials, to continue improving the service they offer. Practices and methods to assess people’s ability should be maintained, resulting in capabilities that can lead to more efficient results. 

Innovation and Openness to Change

New and efficient solutions are the answer to the problems that our residents frequently present to us. It is crucial that we are innovative in the way that we provide the service asked for, and we must always be open to change. Many times, even in a Local Council, you will find administrations that, due to a certain amount of experience and due to the adoption of the same systems that have always worked well in the past, are resilient to change and the introduction of new methods. A change in the mentality of leadership is not the easiest thing, but we have to ensure that we work in an environment where we are continuously encouraging and promoting the necessary changes. Yesterday’s problems deserve yesterday’s solutions. Today’s problems require a different and more flexible approach.  

Sustainability and Long-Term Orientation

We need to ensure that in the policies we adopt we take into consideration the needs of future generations. The politics we adopt need to look to the future so that we can ensure the sustainability of the locality we reside in. The decisions we take cannot create tension or shift problems from one place to another, because we would be solving today’s problems without looking at what effect our decision will have in the long run. The decisions must be sustainable environmentally and structurally, as well as financially and economically. We need to be proactive and, in consultation with people, see what the needs for the future are. The social fabric must be protected, and most importantly, we must act in ways that guarantee that what is ours today will be enjoyed by those who will come after us. Therefore, we have to shoulder this responsibility and ensure that we act in this regard.     

Sound Financial Management

We need to remember that we are operating with public funds. Therefore, each decision taken on spending needs to be in the best interest for everyone and, above all, to achieve the best result. Changing things just to increase the value of what we’re spending on does not justify the change. Neither is acting to reduce the cost by reducing the services on offer or by offering a mediocre service. Caution should be observed at all times, especially when it comes to decisions that will leave an impact on future generations; for example, borrowing, debt etc. The risks that we take need to be calculated and approved. No spending or borrowing can exceed the income of a Local Council. Therefore, it is crucial that there is a long-term business plan and that this is updated from time to time. The same for the financial estimates of the Council. Here, the question that needs to be made is this; “If this was my money, how would I act?” 

Human Rights and Diversity

In the scope of local regulations, these rights are protected. This is not enough. As a local authority, we need to ensure that these are safeguarded and that they are implemented without any form of discrimination. Participation is necessary in order to be ready to tackle instances where this does not happen. Cultural diversity is an asset for every locality. Therefore, it is crucial that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the locality. This is especially important for those who are the most vulnerable in society. Social inclusion and integration are essential to have strong and tolerant societies. These are principles which should be protected at all times. 

Accountability

Whoever finds themselves in a position to take decisions, whether it is collective or individual, needs to act responsibly when they take these decisions. It is important that every decision taken is backed up by evidence as to why it was decided. This information must be kept so that if there are any enquiries, the information is accessible in order to ensure transparency. There should be, and they exist, ways of how one can fight against decisions that have been taken secretly. These should be transmitted clearly to make them known, and they should be available to the citizen as well as to the competent authorities. 

Conclusion

Without a doubt, if as elected councillors we keep these principles which assure good governance in mind, we will then have assurance that citizens are at the centre of our work. We will also be assured that citizens’ trust in our work will continue to grow and multiply. Participation will also grow and the public will have a sense of belonging in the locality. This sentiment will then help increase the collaboration between the Council and its citizens, and this will automatically result in fewer problems and more collaboration in the broadest sense possible.   

Article by Mario Fava – President of the Local Councils’ Association

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CoR First Vice-President Vasco Cordeiro

CoR First Vice-President Vasco Cordeiro – “The best way for the Conference on the Future of Europe to be nothing is to try to be everything. It should focus mainly on two areas: how Europe works and on what it should work. In both these two cases the role of local and regional authorities becomes insurmountable. This is true also for Europe’s recovery. It is time to fulfill the Pillar of Social Rights and also to ensure that the general escape clause will continue to apply next year. This is why also the European Committee of the Regions is calling for a golden rule for sustainable investments”.

Committee of the Regions – Plenary March 2021 https://cor.europa.eu/en/our-work/plenaries

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