Can municipal bodies legally withhold driver’s licenses?
Late last week, Belize City Mayor, Darrell Bradley, confirmed to News Five that residents who are behind in the payment of taxes will have to pay up those arrears, possibly through a payment plan, before they can receive or renew their drivers’ licenses. According to the Mayor, the Council is on an aggressive timetable of street construction and city restoration and needs the revenue.
Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor [File: Friday, Jan 11th, 2013]
“We are in the process of for the first time linking all our databases so that our property and our trade database is linked with our traffic database. So that we have one master system which indicates to us every single resident and what every single resident procures in terms of services from the City: if you have a driver’s license, if you own a business, if you have a liquor license; if you own property and paying property taxes. And because we are connecting all of those systems, we have set a policy to say, if you owe us on any one of your accounts, then we will not provide services to you in respect of any service that you procure from the city. And the reason being is that it is very costly to provide the services that we provide. And this mechanism in terms of improving our technology has allowed us to be more efficient in collections. So if this person goes and they want a driver’s license, the system will pull up whether they owe any property taxes and we are asking them to settle the property taxes before we issue the driver’s license.”
Well, that might be the Mayor’s story, but will he stick to it? We’re not so sure, because the Ministry of Local Government has another view. The Ministry issued a press release this morning informing the public that the legal fee for the issuance of a driver’s license for the period of one year is thirty dollars. And according to the Ministry, residents are advised that once they meet the criteria for a driver’s license, they are not required to pay any more than the mandated thirty dollars. The release makes clear that the Council cannot legally withhold the licenses as a result. We’ll see how this battle plays out in the days ahead.