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Jan 18, 2013

Sedi versus Darrell; can council withhold licenses legally for nonpayment of taxes?

From the burial services takeover to the massive congestion of city streets, the Belize City Council always seems to be in the center of unwelcome controversy. Today is no different, as the discussion of a brewing debate is slowly taking center stage. On one side, Mayor Darrell Bradley has instituted a policy which requires that city residents be up to date on all their tax arrears before they can receive or renew drivers’ licenses. Shortly after that policy was made public the Ministry of Local Government, which supposedly oversees municipal authorities, fired off a release stating that once a person meets the requirements to receive a license, no council can withhold it. Now that’s two distinctly different positions with, as usual, residents caught right in the middle. On Wednesday Attorney General Wilfred Elrington, an authority in legal matters, told us that he doesn’t believe that the Council has the legal authority to do what it is doing. But today the mayor told us he is confident that they do, and he is sticking to his guns.

 

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“The issue of that is every single person has an obligation to pay their taxes so what we are doing in terms of requiring payment of taxes is nothing new—that is your legal obligation. And essentially what we are saying is that the city provides services and residents have to pay for those services in order for the city to operate. And so what we have done and this came as a result of us linking the various networks of the city council. So that now our traffic is linked with our tax database. So we can immediately pick up if you come and renew your driver’s license, that you are delinquent in your property taxes. So what we are saying is that we subsidize traffic services because it is not a profit making venture for the City Council. Our major source of revenue is the property tax. So why should we subsidize a service in terms of providing your driver’s license, providing a traffic management system when residents are meeting their commitments. So essentially what we said is that if you want a service of the city and you want the street works to continue, then do your fair share and pay your taxes—which is your legal obligation any way.”

 

Wilfred Elrington, Attorney General

“That is another matter which we in government, in the cabinet, are looking at very closely. As a matter of face I undertook to talk to my daughter, Alifa, who is a councilor and who is responsible for transport incidentally. And I spoke to her last night and I told her that doubts were being raised as to whether they could do it lawfully. And she read that there is something in the law that suggests that they can. I’ve asked her to let me have a look at it; we’ll discuss it together with a view to trying to interview and intervene with the mayor to see whether in fact—even if there is a law for them to do that—whether they can modify the situation given the difficult economic times, you know.”

 

Darrell Bradley

“I wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t satisfied. And if you notice in some pieces of legislation that is the case. For example the trade license act provides that if you owe the city money, you could be denied a trade license. So in terms of connecting all the dots, we are connecting all the dots. We are ensuring that when we do a policy, it is fair; it is not that we are targeting any group or any particular person—it is across the board.  And I would dare say that if anybody feels aggrieved by our policy that is what the courts are there for. If they want to make representations in the court that what we are doing is wrong, then of course we will be there to defend our position. But the reality of the matter is that the funding of the restoration and transformation of Belize City will cost money and we can only pay for this if people are serious of paying their taxes. That’s the spirit behind this.”

 

The policy of withholding licenses pending payment of tax arrears is not exclusive to Belize City. In fact, the release from the Ministry of Local Government made specific mention of San Ignacio.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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6 Responses for “Sedi versus Darrell; can council withhold licenses legally for nonpayment of taxes?”

  1. Bear says:

    I’m no big fan of Sedi, but I have to acknowledge he is a far more eminent legal authority than Bradley, who has severely disappointed me with his despotic style.

    Let’s have full sunlight on the City’s books of account before we discover the cookie jar is empty.

  2. sickntired says:

    interesting how govt spends time finding these obscure laws but does not spend time helping good citizens – only gangsters. I hope the san ignacio mayor paying attention

  3. Ricky Malthus says:

    When a municipal ordinance conflicts with the Belize’s Constitutional laws, that municipal law must comply with the national law and not vice-versa. When will our boys learn the thrust and purpose of any existing or proposed laws. It is only gutter-like mentality and reasoning that would conclude that Belize City can make and interpret laws to benefit the mayor’s self-serving agenda. I want to puke!!

  4. Louisville,Ky says:

    Man…..just pay unnu tax noh?
    Why do the Government have to twist your arms to get what belongs to them?
    The Greatest Man who ever walked this earth told us: pay back Caesar’s things( taxes ) to Caesar but God’s things (worship) to God. Plain and simple.
    All Mr. Bradley wants is to be able to meet the bond obligations to the investors as he renews YOUR City. Thats all!
    So pay the tax and stop the crying.

  5. johnson says:

    have the gall, stand for someting or fall for nothing my friend. burn the wood, its illegal stuff. people nneed to understand that you cant have it both ways. two wrongs dont make a right.

  6. Knock Knock says:

    No one’s disputing that we must pay taxes, but the Mayor has to review the property taxes in this crime ridden city. I live in Lake Independence area and I am paying almost $500 in property tax.

    Perhaps when Belize City was safer my area was not a bad place to live, but crime has plagued my community. I can’t afford to move to a better area even if I rent out my place, as no one will pay decent money for my neighborhood!

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