Thursday, 13 December 2018
Local Government Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages
I welcome that the Minister of State will withdraw his amendments, which I believe are unworkable, and accept Opposition amendments. Using the example of Waterford and Kilkenny where the difficulties thrown up by boundary issues have been high profile in recent weeks, what was proposed in early stages would not work. The metropolitan area of Waterford city has a population of 47,000. The Ferrybank area of south Kilkenny has a population of 5,000. They were going to be represented by three councillors each, the chief executive of each local authority and four other people. This would have been difficult from the point of view of democracy and proportional representation. The proposed powers and functions up for consideration beggared belief, including the proposal that the local area plan could be overruled. It sent shockwaves through the local authorities, councillors and people affected. It generated a lot of mileage on the national and local airwaves, as one can imagine. I do not believe what was proposed is the correct solution for a collaborative approach going forward, but I believe we have to have an approach where local authorities can come together and work for the betterment of all the people who live in an area that straddles two different counties or districts. The proposal in its current form would only deepen the divide and drive a deeper wedge between both communities. That is the last thing we want. In practical terms, I do not know how this would have worked but I welcome that common sense has prevailed for now and that we will revisit this in the new year.