A local body in Kochi will now have to formulate two years’ plans in the first year of the Five Year Plan, in addition to a five-year perspective plan

Chairpersons and vice-chairpersons of the 19 working groups formed by the City Corporation for formulation of 12th Five Year Plan projects will be given a day’s training on the Plan guidelines by the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) on Monday.

The councillors from all parties have welcomed the changes in guidelines for Plan formulation in local bodies, which call for greater responsibility and effort on the part of the people’s representatives and officials.

A local body will now have to formulate two years’ plans in the first year of the Five Year Plan, in addition to a five-year perspective plan.

“The changes proposed in the new guidelines definitely put a lot of onus on councillors and implementing officers. It has put forth a major challenge as we have been tasked with preparing plans for two years in the first Plan year. But on the whole, I think these proposals will make a positive difference in local-body planning,” Deputy Mayor G. Happykumar said.

K. Maheshwaran Nair, United Democratic Front councillor from Poojappura, said that by formulating plans for two years together, the Corporation could avoid delay in implementation of projects.

“Although in the first Plan year, it means additional work for councillors and officials, from the second year, we will be able to implement the projects right from the start of the financial year, without wasting time on project formulation or approval. From the second Plan year, we only have to prepare one plan for the next year,” Mr Maheshwaran Nair said.

V.S. Padmakumar, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Works of the Corporation, said that while the removal of compulsory allocation in various sectors would give more freedom to the local bodies, there was concern that this would affect the production sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry and small-scale industry.

Allocation

“The new guidelines stipulate no compulsory allocation for any sector, except for the 15 percent allocation for the welfare of women, children and the elderly. The guidelines only say that the allocation for infrastructure development can go up to 55 percent. Although there is a ceiling on infrastructure development, there is concern that the local bodies, especially urban local bodies, will give an unprecedented impetus to activities such as road development and overlook production sectors such as agriculture,” he said.

The councillors welcome the scrapping of technical advisory groups for Plan approval, which, however, has attracted widespread criticism from various quarters. Higher officials of the departments concerned will approve and vet the projects from now on.

“This means that councillors and implementing officers will be more accountable for the projects they prepare as they cannot blame any committee for not receiving approval or for delay in approval,” Mr. Happykumar said.

He said a clear picture on plan formulation and feedback on the new Plan guidelines would emerge after a general meeting of the working group members on Tuesday.