Number of local authorities to be slashed from 114 to 31
THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced a number of changes to Ireland’s political system which Minister Phil Hogan has described as the “most fundamental overhaul” of local government in more than 100 years.
The reforms will see the number of councillors reduced by 42 per cent and the number of local authorities slashed from 114 to just 31.
All 80 existing town councils will be placed by a municipal governance, merging town and county authorities, and the number of council seats will fall from 1,627 to below 950. Members elected at local level will also represent the district at county level.
The structures and levels of all payments to councillors will also be reviewed as part of the Putting People First programme.
According to Hogan, the plans will save the State €420 million over four years. He said the changes aim to rebuild the public’s trust in local government again as it currently does not “enjoy universal confidence”.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the coalition is bringing local government into the 21st century with “one of the most radical, ambitious and far-reaching governance reform plans” ever put forward in Ireland.
The proposals will see town councils replaced by Municipal Districts, something Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said would help local government be more democratic and more responsive.
The Putting People First programme sets to reform structures that are largely unchanged since 1898. Key elements will include:
Three new assemblies will replace the current ten regional authorities.
Services administered by local authorities will be funded through the new local property tax.
There will be a new Independent National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) to scrutinise local government performance and efficiency.
Audit committees will be put on a regulatory footing.
The power of councillors in respect of planning and certain other matters will be curtailed.
The position of local authority manager will be replaced by a Chief Executive post.
The two representative bodies of local councillors will be merged after 2014.
The overall maximum expenditure in respect of attendance by councillors at conferences will be significantly reduced.
The role and functions of the elected council are to be widened.
Greater emphasis will be given to the participation of women in politics.
One-stop-shops for business support will be provided through new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)
A new website fixyourstreet.ie will be rolled out so locals can report issues with roads, lighting and other problems.
Hogan said the scheme looks to devolve functions to local level, citing economic plans, housing service plans and the location of educational sites.
“The whole tenet of my policy is to make sure there is a rebalancing of power to the democratically elected local councillor and away from the management system,” he said.