Local council bye-laws
With the setting up of local councils under Act No. XV of 1993 (Chap. 363) on June 30, 1993, local councils were empowered to make, amend or revoke bye-laws for the purpose of carrying out their functions and for the prevention and suppression of nuisances in their locality.
Councils also have the power to raise funds by means of any scheme designed to provide additional funds to those allocated by the government, provided such schemes are instituted by bye-laws.
The procedure for making bye-laws is laid down in the law by means of article 35 and Standing Order 36 of the Sixth Schedule of the same law and may be summarised as follows:
¤ Draft bye-laws duly signed by a proposer and a seconder shall be put on the agenda of a council by not less than four weeks and not more than eight weeks from the date on which they have been received by the executive secretary.
¤ At least three weeks before a council is due to discuss proposed bye-laws, a notice of the council's intentions is to be given in all daily newspapers and in the Government Gazette. A copy of the proposed bye-laws is also to be deposited at the offices of the council and open to public inspection.
¤ After the council discusses and approves the proposed bye-laws, the executive secretary submits a copy to the director (local councils) for consideration by the minister responsible for local government.
¤ If within six weeks from receipt the minister decides to propose any amendments, the council has to be informed in writing of such amendments. If the council is not informed of any amendment within this time-frame, the council shall assume that the minister is not proposing any amendments and may proceed to approve the bye-laws as originally proposed.
¤ After discussing the amendments proposed by the minister, the council may either approve or not approve the bye-laws as amended. If approved, a copy is to be forwarded to the minister's consideration for publication.
¤ At this stage, the minister still has the right to object to any bye-laws approved by the council and shall signify such objection and justification thereof in writing to the council.
¤ Draft bye-laws which are not approved by the council or which are objected to by the minister shall not be tabled again before a period of six months from the date when they have been not approved or objected to.
¤ Should the minister not object, the bye-laws will be published in the Government Gazette and shall come into force one month after their publication or within a shorter period as may be agreed between the council and the minister.
It should be noted that local councils are not allowed to publish any bye-laws which are deemed to be a form of local taxation.
Bye-laws are applicable only within the legal boundaries of the locality which issued the bye-laws. Except as provided by any other law, a person who contravenes a bye-law shall be guilty of a contravention and shall be liable to a fine as specified in the bye-laws.
Contraventions shall be deemed to be scheduled offences for the purposes of the Commissioners for Justice Act. Sittings are held in established local tribunals. The amount of any fine is due to the council of the locality where the contravention occurs.
The efficiency and effectiveness of any council can never be measured by the number of bye-laws published by the council. The fact that some local councils have not yet published any bye-laws, or that some have published fewer bye-laws than others has no bearing on the performance of any council. This performance can only be gauged by the residents themselves.
The first bye-laws were published by Hamrun local council on August 16, 1994 to regulate the use and placement of skips and bins on wheels in the locality. On a year-by-year basis, and until the end of March 2004, 87 bye-laws have been published. So far, 40 local councils have published bye-laws. It is not possible here to list separately every category of bye-laws as actually published. Bye-laws of the same category also differ slightly from council to council depending on the particular needs of the council. Bye-laws published as from January 2004 are now appearing on the website of the Department of Information.
The law also provides for regulations by general application to be made by the minister. Such regulations will be deemed to be bye-laws enacted by all councils, provided that any such regulations will be without prejudice to the issue of additional bye-laws by any local council, for the same purpose and for special provisions applicable to the locality.
Two legal notices by general application have been published so far by the minister responsible for local government. Legal Notice 241 of 2000, published on November 28, 2000 is aimed at regulating the use and placement of skips and bins on wheels and to control commercial and industrial waste.
Legal Notice 67 of 2002, published on March 15, 2002 seeks to control solid discharge by horses. Unfortunately, the latter is bogged down in a court case.
In the true spirit of the law, every effort has to be made by local councils for these bye-laws and regulations to be enforced once they are published.