THE POWER of councillors to overturn the decisions of planning officials will be abolished in a massive overhaul of local government to be announced tomorrow.
The biggest reform of local government
since the current system was instituted in 1898 is due to be unveiled by
the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan.
The decision to
curtail the planning powers of local councillors has been taken in the
light of evidence given to the Mahon tribunal regarding corruption in
the planning process.
As part of the reform package, section 140
of the Local Government Act will be abolished so that councillors will
no longer be allowed to direct officials in respect of planning
The planning system has been bedevilled for decades by
the ability of councillors to override planning decisions made by the
professional planners in local authorities.
The practice has been more common in some counties than in others and has been the source of continuing controversy.
Mahon tribunal, which investigated planning corruption in Dublin during
the early 1990s, uncovered an elaborate system of payments and
political donations made to councillors during the planning process.
is believed the reforms to be announced tomorrow will take account of
the tribunal recommendations and are designed to ensure that similar
problems do not arise in the future.
It is also expected that the
reform package will involve the abandonment of plans to have a directly
elected mayor for the greater Dublin area similar to the office of
The plan was the brainchild of the former minister for the environment and Green Party leader, John Gormley.
the Government parties have maintained since before taking office that
the creation of a Dublin mayor would cost €8 million a year and was not
justified in current economic circumstances.
The nub of the reform
plan, which has already been flagged by Mr Hogan, will be a substantial
cut in the number of councillors and a reduction in the number of local
It is expected that some local authorities will be
merged, but it is not yet clear if smaller town councils will be
abolished as originally planned.
The household charge introduced
by Mr Hogan at the beginning of the year will be replaced by a fully
fledged property tax next year but the Government remains committed to
the principle that the money will be ring-fenced for use by local
Despite the controversy and the slow start to the
collection process, the Department of the Environment now believes that
the compliance rate will be close to 75 per cent by the end of the year.
for collecting the property tax has been passed to the Revenue
Commissioners, who will also be responsible for collecting the household
Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties
last July, the Minister said that he had been mandated by a “reforming
Government to drag the system of local government into the 21st century”
so that it delivered more to the community and put people first.