A response to Putting People First - Political Quote

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

A response to Putting People First

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  1. Ireland is the 2nd most underrepresented country in the EU when it comes to local government.
  2. The ratio is 1 councillor per 118 per head of population per Councillor in France, 250 per head of population in Sweden and 350 in Germany. This rises to 610 in Spain and 1100 per head of population in Greece and Belgium.
  3. This plan proposes to make this situation worse by increasing the ratio from 1 councillor per 2,336 to 1 councillor per 4,800.
  4. According the McCarthy Report and the AMAI the total saving from abolishing 75 town councils and 700 councillors is just €6 million; that’s a saving of just €80k per council.
  5. This is a further centralisation of power into the hands of fewer councillors which was criticised in the 1991 Barrington report on local government reform.
  6. The average salary of a town councillor is €4,400 before tax.
  7. The total expenditure on councillors, salary, expenses, conferences, study trips, accounts for less than 1% of the total budget of a Town Council.
  8. Town councils are the lowest most effective level of local government, most responsive to the needs of their constituents.
  9. Repeated studies have shown that Town Councils are more efficient and effective than city or county councils.  Source: The Case for Town Local Government in Ireland in the 21st Century' by UCC.
  10. The abolition of Town Councils is directly contrary to the Principles of Local Agenda 21 and the EU principle of Subsidiarity as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
  11. The report seeks to remove Town Councils, Borough Councils and City Councils which have existed separately for centuries in the interests of savings only, taking in no account the historical, economic, cultural, social and morale impact of such a move.  Meanwhile Dublin is to be left as 4 separate local authorities for no good reason.
  12. No effort has been made to differentiate between effective, efficient and successful councils and other less effective councils.
  13. No new powers have been conferred on councillors.
  14. The raising of new taxes such as the Property Tax is to be handed over to the Revenue Commissioners (Irish Times 23 October 2012).
  15. The fact that the Revenue are responsible for collecting tax means that central government can decide to withhold or alter funding to local government.
  16. Town Councils are already accountable and transparent with regard to finances as a Budget is published every year detailing the council’s spending.  This budget is audited by the Local Government Auditor.  (Compare the budget of a Town Council and County Council to see which is the more transparent.)
  17. Town Councils are already accountable and transparent with regard to planning as they publish a Town Plan every 5 years which as a completely public process and which is overseen by the Dept of the Environment.
  18. Councillors are to be removed from the planning process even further by the removal of their powers under Section 140.  Section 140 is the provision whereby Councillors have the last say over the Executive and is an important piece of legislation which ensures that local government is not solely the purview of unelected officials. 
  19. Planning is to become the sole purview of unelected officials and opens up the possibility of a whole new era of corruption out of sight of the elected councillor.
  20. The new municipal councils are just enlarged Local Area Committees not true councils in their own right.
  21. The fact that the councillors sit on both municipal area council and City/County Council is proof that it is just a further centralisation of powers was criticised in the 1991 Barrington report on local government reform.
  22. The majority of the 75 councils to be abolished are outside the major cities and conurbations and as such they balance out the power and investment that goes into cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick etc by providing a voice to their areas as well as acting as lobbying organisations with the state, semi state companies, service providers, councils, regional bodies and groups like the IDA and the Tourism Bodies.  The abolition of these councils will silence whole areas of rural Ireland.
  23. The loss of 75 Town Mayors is a huge loss of prestige and pride to local communities who like having someone to look to for Civic Leadership and to welcome VIPs and investors in their community.  It is an end to all Civic Honours currently hosted by these Mayors.   
  24. Town Managers and County Managers will still run the system although they will be called CEO’s councillors will not have the powers to hire or fire them as they do in all EU systems of local government. 
  25. Staff's loyalty always lies with their direct employer, which always ensure the executive and CEO will have final say. 
  26. County/City Council CEO will always have influence over his employees even if they work for Municipal Councils.
  27. Executive Functions will still exist allowing the CEO to act as he sees fit and with no democratic accountability.
  28. The proposed abolition of Town Councils is directly contrary to the pre election policies of both Fine Gael and The Labour Party which both committed them to strengthening and empowering local government.
  29. The proposed abolition of Town Councils is not a policy of the Programme for Government.
  30. The number of Regional Assemblies is to be cut from 10 to 3, another reduction of democratic representation and on rural areas.
  31. No direct election of representatives to the remaining regional assemblies compounds the democratic deficit and weakens the authority of such assemblies.
  32. No direct elections of Mayors for those councils which will still exist.
  33. This new reform system is not used anywhere else in the EU.  It is not the introduction of an existing, successful, tried and tested form of local government from another similar sized EU country. 
  34. This is not a plan of reform.  It is a plan of budget cuts, a reduction of local democracy on a scale never seen in a modern European nation and a further centralisation of local government.

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