Local government in The Bahamas

Local government in the Bahamas exists in two forms, namely second-schedule and third-schedule district councils. There are a total of 32 local government districts: 13 second-schedule districts, which are further sub-divided into town areas, and 19 third-schedule districts, which are all unitary authorities. The second and third schedules together make up the first schedule.[1] Local government policy is formulated and administered by the Department of Lands and Local Government through the Office of the Prime Minister. The day-to-day policy handling of the portfolio falls to the Minister of Local Government who also is empowered to create new local government areas from time to time based on demographics. The administrative and financial management is overseen by the ministry’s permanent secretary.[2]

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Local government previously existed in the Bahamas in the form of appointed "Board of Works". Here towns and villages held their influence over these Board of Works, but almost all final decisions were made by the central government through that islands' Commissioner. The modern system of local government that is in use today was implemented on 8 March 1996. The Out Islands of the country could now enjoy a somewhat greater degree of autonomy, but New Providence Island, in which the capital city Nassau is located, was to be directly governed by the central government. The act that implemented local government had described all districts as either being Second-Schedule or Third-Schedule districts. [3]

Districts of The Bahamas

The Districts of the Bahamas provide a system of Local Government everywhere in The Bahamas except New Providence (where Nassau the capital is located, whose affairs are handled directly by the central government). The current system dates from 1996 when 23 districts were "created" by The Bahamas Local Government Act of 1996 a further 9 have been added since 1999.[4]

Local Government in The Bahamas has seen great success since its introduction, but there has been concern over the case of New Providence and whether or not it should have local government.

DistrictIsland GroupLargest Town and Cities
AcklinsAcklins and Crooked IslandsSpring Point, Lovely Bay
Berry IslandsBerry IslandsBullocks Harbour, Chub Cay
BiminiBiminiAlice Town, Louis Town
Black PointExumaBlack Point
Cat IslandCat IslandArthur's Town, Port Howe
Central AbacoAbacoMarsh Harbour, Spring City
Central AndrosAndrosCargill Creek, Behring Point
Central EleutheraEleutheraGovernor's Harbour
City of FreeportGrand BahamaFreeport Lucaya
Crooked IslandAcklins and Crooked IslandsColonel Hill
East Grand BahamaGrand BahamaPelican Point, Maclean's Town
ExumaExumaGeorge Town, Rolleville
Grand CayGrand CayGrand Cay City
Green Turtle CayAbacoNew Plymouth
Harbour IslandEleutheraDunmore Town
Hope TownAbacoHope Town, Man-o-War Cay
InaguaInagua IslandsMatthew Town
Long IslandLong IslandDeadman's Cay, Clarence Town
Mangrove CayAndrosMoxey Town, Lisbon Creek
MayaguanaMayaguanaAbraham's Bay
Moore's IslandAbacoHard Bargain, The Bight
North AbacoAbacoCoopers Town, Crown Haven
North AndrosAndrosNicholl's Town, Morgan's Bluff
North EleutheraEleutheraUpper Bouge, Lower Bouge, Current
Ragged IslandRagged island ChainDuncan Town
Rum CayRum CayPort Nelson
San SalvadorSan Salvador IslandCockburn Town, United Estates
South AbacoAbacoSandy Point, Crossing Rocks
South AndrosAndrosCongo Town, Mars Bay
South EleutheraEleutheraTarpum Bay
Spanish WellsRussel IslandSpanish Wells
West Grand BahamaGrand BahamaWest End, Eight Mile Rock

Types of Councils

Every district in the Bahamas has a districts council.[5] A district council is a corporate body with perpetual succession; capable of entering into contracts, of suing and being sued, of acquiring, holdings, leasing and disposing of property of any description, and of doing all such things and entering into such transactions that are within the scope of the Local Government Act.[6] District Councillors are elected by the population of that district in accordance with Local Government Act.[7] As stated in The Bahamas Local Government Act 1996, Districts councillors shall within two weeks of their election, elect from among themselves a Chief Councillor.[8] The Chief Councillor shall be the representative of a Districts Council for all affairs. He or she is to preside over all meetings and also themselves co-ordinate these meetings.[9]

All districts councils are classed as first-schedule councils. The first-schedule is further sub-divided into two types of councils: two tier second-schedule district councils that have town committees within their jurisdiction, and unitary third-tier district councils.[10] Second-schedule districts have the following statutory boards and committees:

  • Road Traffic Licensing Authority
  • Port and Harbour Authority
  • Hotel Licensing Board
  • Liquor and Shop Licensing
  • Town Planning Committee

Town committees are sub-structures of the second-schedule district councils, but are also corporate bodies themselves. They share responsibility with second-schedule district councils for a number of the schedule local government functions. They also have statutory responsibility for local regulation and licensing within their jurisdiction.[11] Third-schedule districts councils are unique within the Bahamas because they combine the responsibilities of the second-schedule districts and of the town committees. Both second- and third-schedule district councils carry out a building control function...[12]

Distribution of councils and population (2010 Census)
Island 2nd tier 3rd tier Town Population
New Providence 0 0 246,329
Abaco islands 3 4 17,242
Acklins 0 1 565
Andros Island 3 1 7,490
Berry Islands 0 1 807
Bimini 0 1 1,988
Cat Island 1 0 1,522
Crooked Island 0 1 330
Grand Bahama 2 1 51,368
Harbour Island 0 1 1,762
Eleuthera 2 1 8,202
Exuma and Cays 1 1 6,928
Inagua 0 1 913
Long Island 1 0 3,094
Mayaguana 0 1 277
Ragged Island 0 1 72
Rum Cay 0 1 99
San Salvador 0 1 930
Spanish Wells 0 1 1,551
TOTAL 13 19 351,461 13,940
Largest Council 31,478 6,014
Smallest Council 72 1,548


Local government elections take place once every three years in the Bahamas with the most recent elections taking place in June 2011 in which 391 positions were contested.[13] The voting system used in local government elections is the first-past-the-post system. Both councillors of third-schedule district councils and members of town committees are directly elected, while members of second-schedule councils are indirectly elected from town committees. Third schedule district councils have between five and nine members, whereas the size of councils in both second-schedule councils and town committees varies according to population size. Bye elections are held whenever the need arises. A councillor is deemed to have resigned if they are absent for three consecutive meetings.

For both types of district councils the Chief Councillors and their deputies are indirectly elected from amongst the elected officials. They serve for the lifetime of the council and the Minister of Local Government determines their stipend. Second-schedule district councils' statutory boards also elect chairpersons and their deputies from amongst their members.[14]

Major Islands

Reference map for the Islands of the Bahamas[15]
Islands of the Bahamas[16]
Crest Island's name Capital (or largest settlement) Population Area (km²)
AcklinsSpring Point[17]560492
AbacoMarsh Harbour[18]16,6921,681
AndrosAndros Town7,3865,957
the Berry IslandsNicholls Town79831
BiminiAlice Town2,00823
Cat IslandArthur's Town[19]1,50323
Crooked IslandColonel Hill[20]323241
EleutheraGovernor's Harbour[21]9,363518
Grand BahamaFreeport City[22]51,7561,373
InaguaMatthew Town[23]9111,679
Long IslandClarence Town[24]3,024596
MayaguanaAbraham's Bay271285
New ProvidenceNassau248,948207
RaggedDuncan Town[25]7036
Rum CayPort Nelson9978
San SalvadorCockburn Town[26]930163
The Bahamas Nassau 353,658[27] 13,943

See also


  1. "The Local Government System in the Bahamas". Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
  2. "The Local Government System in the Bahamas:Ministerial oversight:". Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
  3. "West Indies". The Hope Town District Council.
  4. "Laws and Acts". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  5. Bahamas Local Government Act 1996, Part IV, Section 10:1 Retrieved-November-27
  6. Bahamas Local Government Act 1996, Part IV, 10:2 Retrieved-November-27
  7. Bahamas Local Government Act 1996, Part IV, 10:4 Retrieved-November-27
  8. Bahamas Local Government Act 1996, Part IV, 11 Retrieved-November-27
  9. Bahamas Local Government Act 1996, Part IV, 11:2 Retrieved-November-27
  10. "The Local Government System in the Bahamas:Council Types". Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
  11. "The Local Government System in the Bahamas:Council Types:Second-schedule District Councils&Town Committees". Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
  12. "The Local Government System in the Bahamas:Council Types:Third-Schedule Districts". Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
  13. Gibbs, Gena (25 June 2011). "Local Government holds national elections in Family Islands". Bahamas Information Services.
  14. "The Local Government System in the Bahamas:Elections". Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
  15. "Reference map for the Islands of the Bahamas". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  16. "The Commonwealth of the Bahamas". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  17. "Acklins / Crooked Island Activities and Attractions". Archived from the original on 24 March 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2010.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  18. "DeBora's Dreamscape". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  19. "Majestic Holidays". Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  20. "Acklins Island and Crooked Island, Bahamas". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  21. "Med Point". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  22. "Grand Bahama - an impartial guide to the Island". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  23. "The Inaguas". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  24. "Bahamas Gateway Yellow Pages -- Hotels". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  25. "DeBora's Dreamscape". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  26. "San Salvador Bahamas: Christopher Columbus First Landfall". Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  27. "Comparison between the 2000 and 2010 Population Censuses and Percentage Change" (PDF). Retrieved 20 December 2010.
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