All Town Councils to be abolished

Sue Doherty

Reporter:

Sue Doherty

As reported by the Donegal Democrat on October 1, the Government has today announced plans to abolish all 80 Town Councils in Ireland

As reported by the Donegal Democrat on October 1, the Government has today announced plans to abolish all 80 Town Councils in Ireland

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said the ‘Putting People First’ action programme, is “one of the most radical, ambitious and far-reaching governance reform plans ever put forward by an Irish Government.”

Overall, the number of councils in the country will be slashed from 114 to 31, with an expected savings of €420 million.

The total number of council seats will fall from 1,627 to no more than 950, while members elected at local level will also represent the district at county level.

At regional level, three new assemblies will replace the current ten regional authorities and assemblies.

Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Eamon Gilmore TD commented: “Today, we are embarking on a path to far-reaching reform that will result in a system that is fairer, better and fit for purpose in a modern democracy.”

Minister Hogan said: “Putting People First sets to reform the system of local government from structures that are largely unchanged since 1898; to modernise the approaches to ensure more is delivered to the citizen and to build confidence in the Local Government Sector by making it more accountable to the people it serves. This document represents fundamental re-imagining of the system and it sees local government leading economic, social and community development, as well as delivering efficient services that are good value.”

Under the new plans, services administered by local authorities will be funded through the new local property tax, a move designed to strengthen local responsibility for decision-making by authorities and there will be a new Independent National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) to scrutinise local government performance and efficiency. While the powers of councillors will be strengthened, their powers to direct Managers in respect of planning and certain other matters will be curtailed and the position of local authority manager will be replaced by a Chief Executive Post.

‘Lacks substance’

Mayor of Bundoran Town Council, Cllr. Philip McGlynn said the programme “lacks substance.”

He stated: There’s a lot hypotheticals at the moment: there’s no substance to what he’s said. MInister Hogan is doing away with the councils but hasn’t told us what he’s replacing them with.

“As a councillor myself, as Chairman of of Town Council, I don’t know any more than anyone else what will replace them.

“Take Donegal Electoral Area where there are five councillors - John Byrne, Brendan Byrne, John Campbell, Sean McEniff and Barry O’Neill. If they’re doing away with Bundoran and Ballyshannon, that’s taking 18 councillors out of the loop. How many more will we get to offset that? Could we end up here in Bundoran or in Ballyshannon with no councillors?”

“The councils won’t be disbanded for another two years. He’s thrown the ball in now but it’s up to myself and each and every other councillor to sit down with him and debate with him what the new structures will be. I think councillors should be afforded the opportunity to debate it openly with him, to ask questions and get answers.

“Bundoran Town Council is one of the most profitable in the country. There’s more than €2 million in our deposit account. The town council is one of the most effective and most prudently managed. We feel aggrieved that the Minister hasn’t come along and said ‘Well done’. Instead, he’s just abolishing all 80 councils, including ours.”