HISTORY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The earliest type of municipality in Trinidad was the Royal Cabildo, which was established in St. Joseph in 1768 by Spanish colonists. The Cabildo exercised wide executive powers, performing a wide range of functions. The Cabildo appointed chief judges on the island, supervised markets, scavenged and repaired streets, controlled the police, the Royal Goal, the admission of physicians and surgeons, and levied duties and taxes on grog shops. The Cabildo's operations were much broader in scope that the municipal corporation today. The taxpayers elected the members of the Cabildo annually.
The last Spanish governor of Trinidad, Don Jose Maria Chacon, took office as Governor in 1783. He immediately set about restructuring the Cabildo by limiting its great power. Chacon ordered the Cabildo to be relocated from St. Joseph to Port of Spain in 1784.
When Trinidad changed hands from Spanish to British rule in 1797, the Cabildo's powers were further limited as the new authorities attempted to change it into an English-type municipality. Ordinance No. 6 of 1840 transformed the Cabildo into the Town Council of Port of Spain. The governor served as the President of Town Council, with twelve members or Town Councilors, in what was a form of limited representative government.
The Town Council, owing to the rapid development of Port of Spain, soon outlasted its usefulness. In 1853, Municipal Corporations Ordinance No. 10 of 1853, established the Borough Council of Port of Spain. Dr. Louis DeVerteuil became the first mayor. However, owing to repeated quarrels with the central government over money, the British government revoked borough status, effective 1st January 1899, leaving Port of Spain in the hands of commissioners. A Town Board took over from the commissioners from 1907 to 1914, when the battle to reinstate borough status ended with Ordinance No. 24 of 1914, conferring the loftier status of city on Port of Spain.
For San Fernando, the abolition of the Cabildo in 1840 and the creation of a Town Council in Port of Spain, gave the people of San Fernando the impetus to press for a similar authority. In 1846 San Fernando had a Town Council, with Dr. Robert Johnstone as its first president. San Fernando gained borough status in 1853 by the same ordinance which created the Port of Spain Borough Council. Dr. Johnstone was elected San Fernando's first mayor in elections on 3rd November of that same year. San Fernando became a city on 18th November 1989.
Arima became a borough by Royal Charter in 1888. Queen Victoria granted the Royal Charter, making Arima the first - and only - Royal Borough in the Caribbean. British governor Sir William Robinson did the presentation.
Apart from Port of Spain, San Fernando and Arima, only Point Fortin and Chaguanas have been elevated to borough status over the years: Point Fortin by Act No. 12 of 1980, and Chaguanas by Act No. 21 of 1990.
Presently there are 14 regional corporations in Trinidad. The Tobago House of Assembly is responsible for all local government activities on the sister isle. Previously, local government was administered by a system of county council which came into effect in 1945. This system can be traced back to the recommendations of two commissions of inquiry early in the 20th century.
British governor Sir Hugh Clifford chaired a committee to inquire into and report on the question of the extension of Local Government throughout Trinidad and Tobago. Reporting in 1906, one of the recommendations of the committee was the formation of a system of "district boards." Subsequently, the Royal Commission of 1838 also recommended the formation of county councils, as the "district boards" of the Clifford Report came to be known.
On 28th June 1945, Act No. 18 of that year created county councils. The next year Ordinance No. 18 of 1946 superceded this act. Under these two ordinances, county councils had no executive power. they acted as advisors to the central colonial authorities in matters such as housing, land settlement, hospitals, school buildings, health, water, sanitation, roads, markets, pastures, abattoirs, cemeteries, police stations, public buildings, and social services. Members of these councils were elected officials.
The county councils were given executive powers and became local authorities for areas comprising their electoral districts by Ordinance No. 39 of 1952. Among these powers was the authority to give financial and other assistance towards the establishment and encouragement of community, district, or village councils, and the erection of community centers and halls. Their responsibilities included local roads, cemeteries, recreation grounds and markets. Within each county council there were several electoral districts. Each of these electoral districts was represented on the county council by two aldermen and a councilor. A chairman presided over the county council.
Act No. 21 of 1990 brought regional corporations into the local government landscape. Regional Corporations, with each regional corporation representing a specified region, replaced the county councils. This Act was amended by Act. No. 28 of 1991, and further amended by Act No. 8 of 1992.
Tobago was administered as a county of Trinidad and Tobago in 1945 when the county council system was first introduced. However, with the passage of Act No. 37 of 1980, the Tobago House of Assembly was revived. The Assembly is responsible for all local government activities on the island. Tobago is divided into seven parishes: St. George, St. Mary, St. Andrew, St. Patrick, St. David, St. Paul and St. John.
- Ministry of Public Administration
- Government Information Service