Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Reform of Local Government: Discussion
Association of County and City Councils
I thank the members of the general council for making their views known to the committee. The Bill is on Committee Stage and my party is in the process of preparing amendments with a view to getting answers to many of the questions Councillor O'Brien has raised, such as the role of local development companies. We recognise the aspiration behind that move but we question the manner in which it is being implemented. We hope that amalgamations take place through negotiation rather than imposition and that the implications for staff, etc., are recognised. Those who represent staff will, I am sure, raise these issues. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government informed the Dáil last week that progress is being made in that regard. Questions also arise in regard to appointments to the boards and accountability. We will make a list of our proposed amendments available to the association at the earliest opportunity.
We do not agree with the thrust of the Bill. We recognise the need for reform but it must be meaningful reform. Town councils have played a leading role throughout the country. We accept the need for streamlining and ending duplication in the system but do not agree with the extent of the cull proposed in this regard and will be highlighting that on Committee Stage. We believe our amendments will reflect the opinions and aspirations of local authority members and we will be liaising with them in seeking to represent their views and ensuring we do not lose local democracy. There is nervousness on the part of many people throughout the country that the disconnect is larger than envisaged by virtue of these proposals. Many of the functions of local authorities have been diminished in recent years rather than enhanced. We will be introducing amendments that seek to devolve more powers than are currently proposed in the legislation as it stands.
I acknowledge the work that the witnesses do on behalf of their members and assure them we will do our best to represent those views when we introduce amendments to the legislation with a view to making it work more effectively for all concerned.