Three town councils in firing line

The future of Donegal’s town councils should be known in the coming weeks amid fears that three of the four will be abolished.

The future of Donegal’s town councils should be known in the coming weeks amid fears that three of the four will be abolished.

A review of local governmnet is expected to be published before Christmas.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan is to visit Donegal County Council in January when it is expected he will address councillors on the impact of a review of local government. His plans for local government are expected to be published before Christmas.

The merger of Limerick’s city and town council and the merger of the councils of North and South Tipperay earlier this year has increased speculation that town councils will be scrapped.

At a meeting of Fine Gael councillors in the north west in recent weeks the minister indicated that town councils serving small populations would be abolished meaning Ballyshannon, Bundoran and Buncrana town councils are all in the firing line. The future of town councils has been in doubt since the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers recommended the abolishment of town councils.

A Fine Gael source said that the message the minister gave was that the days of small town councils serving populations of around 1,000 to 1,5000 people are over. “It will be population based. It is likely he will leave the larger town councils above 15,000 people, like Letterkenny and Sligo. How can he justify a town council Bagenalstown in Carlow with 1,200 or Bundoran with a town council with planning and rate collection and just four miles away you have Ballyshannon with twice the population? After what he said it would be surprising if he didn’t follow through on abolishing town councils.”

Another source said council’s under 15,000 population are at risk.

Earlier this month it was reported that the minister is considering bolstering the powers of town councils to create town councils with responsibility for surrounding rural areas. The poers of the regional authorities could also be passed to the county councils.

Another change that could come from the review of local government could see the county enterprise board and county development boards abolished and their staff subsumed by the county council. Such a move was flagged up by Local Government Efficiency Review Group published last year.

The review will also look at the introduction of new revenue streams for local authorities.

A spokesman for the Department of Environment confirmed that the minister is to visit Donegal County Council on January 19th. The spokesman said the publication of outcome of the review was expected shortly but it was unlikely to come out before the budget on December 6th.