The city of Roseau is governed locally by the Roseau City Council. Presently, this legislative body reports to the Central Government: The Ministry of Community Development and Gender Affairs. Local councils were implemented over 100 years ago when the island was under British rule and were set with the purpose of administering to the islands affairs. Today this type of government is a viewed as a form of political decentralization which is intended to encourage local autonomy and participation in community leadership.
The Roseau City Council is the oldest entity in the system and was established in 1896 as the Roseau Town Board. The name was changed to the Roseau Town Council 1937 and then again in 1982 under legislative Act 12, to the Roseau City Council.
The Council comprises thirteen members - eight are elected and five are appointed by the Minister of central government. The council elections are held every three years. The elected chairman is the “Mayor of Roseau” and respectfully addressed, “His Lordship, The Mayor”. As of January 2008, the current mayor is the Honorable Cecil Joseph. The election process is managed by the local electoral office. One month before the term of office is up, is made. Locals dwelling in the area are free to nominate themselves and this is done in person at the electoral office, whereby the person’s names are placed on the ballot. The appointed members are selected from a pool of recommended members provided by the town council body.
The hierarchy of the Roseau town council, in order of rank is: Chairman; City Clerk and Assistant City Clerk; City Overseer (who is responsible for all sanitary laborers and city caretakers); the Accountant and Junior Accounts Clerk; the Cashier and Accounts Receivable Officer.
The Roseau City Council allows members of its community to serve in positions of leadership as well as provides opportunity for these citizens to elect their own local leadership. There is a direct benefit to the public which the council serves as it consults with the community on identifying, planning, implementation and management of the development and activities of the locale. Simply put: projects are designed around the direct needs and benefits of Roseau and its residents.
The Roseau City Council also acts as an arbitrator between the residents (community) and central government. It is actually the most proletariat arm of administration within the democratic system. Information, policies and projects are passed onto the community and project development, community issues and concerns, and general information is shared with the government.
The current council presides over a large area which encompasses Waven Coque to the north, Riviere Canaries to the south, the Caribbean Sea to its west and the Palm Grove area to its east: this area has approximately 14,000 residents.
Broadly the function of city council is to provide opportunities for its members to actively partake in its decision making process on the local level, to provide access to necessary social and economic services, to act as an effective channel of communication between the central government and the local community and to build up a body of leadership at the local level who will then develop local organizations which are capable of managing the development of their area.
More specifically, the Roseau City Council is empowered to regulate the activities in Roseau and the municipal jurisdictions. It achieves this by making laws and enforcing them. It levies house and land taxes, purchases lands or buildings for public use, establishes and regulates the markets, maintains the water works, parks, gardens and any place of recreation. Despite the council’s increased size (from 8 to 13 members) and its locale broadened, the establishment of specialized agencies for water, sewer and health services which were once provided by the council are now managed by those agencies.
The council is responsible for functions within the capital of Roseau such as: sanitary maintenance, provision and maintenance of public conveniences, allocation of street property to vendors, management of stray animals, and sidewalk and drain maintenance. The council manages all public activities conducted within its limits such as carnivals, parades, street parties, and is the authority from which permission must be sought to conduct activities within its limits, or use of any public facilities.
The council is effective and successful in its application, and the community is well known for the captivating and engaging election campaigns. It is a process which is accepted and embraced by its charges.