Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010: Second Stage
-----and to be the first speaker on an initiative which I consider to be historic, in terms of the Bill's dialogue with Dublin's past, and the impact the legislation will have on the future local government system of this country.
The Bill is another step towards the fruition of a central policy goal of this Government which, as the responsible Minister, I have steadily and transparently pursued since taking office. The office of mayor of Dublin will carry important statutory powers and functions to which I will refer presently. However, I would like, first, to outline a key rationale for this proposal, which transcends the sum of the specific powers under the legislation. The central goal of the Dublin mayor initiative is the strengthening of local democracy and public administration in Dublin by creating a platform for democratic leadership in the governance of the Dublin region. The provisions of this Bill are before the Dáil today to help bring new leadership to Dublin and address some deficits in the current system. Given Dublin's role in the national economy, the benefits of the mayoralty will also accrue throughout the country.
I will address the current leadership arrangements for local government in Dublin. At present the political leadership of the four Dublin local authorities is provided by four indirectly elected mayors or cathaoirligh, each serving an annual term, assisted by four city and county managers, with a standard seven-year term. The office of cathaoirleach often tends to be regarded as ceremonial, and political leadership among the councillors can be low from the perspective of the electorate. This system of leadership is atypical when compared to systems of local government leadership found elsewhere, not to mention models of leadership used in business and other walks of life.
In April 2008 the Government published the Green Paper on local government, Stronger Local Democracy - Options for Change. The Green Paper identified a disconnect between local government and the citizen which results in poor lines of accountability to the elected council. It is difficult for non-expert observers to understand the system of local government, the dynamics of how decisions are made, who is responsible for those decisions, who should be held to account when failures occur and who should be credited for success.
Those issues are further pronounced when local government's role in meeting regional or cross-institutional challenges is examined. Identifying points of accountability among the complex interplay of State agencies, Departments, and the collective efforts of the four local authorities and one regional authority, is extremely challenging. An economist or political scientist might consider such a system of leadership in Dublin's local government as being sub-optimal in many respects, and might describe the system in terms of the principal-agent problem, a concept which describes a circumstance in which difficulties arise because one party to a transaction has less information than another party. This asymmetry of information and influence creates an imbalance of power. The Dublin mayor will help correct that asymmetry.
We are all democrats in this House and we all recognise the importance of the democratic process, not simply as a mechanism to choose an office holder, but also as a process in which a political conversation takes place where ideas, policies and ideologies are examined, selected and rejected by the electorate. This process will be given greater significance in Dublin under this legislation. Every five years, an election will occur, during which the mayoral candidates will each present a vision for Dublin, and describe how that vision will be attained. The mayor will have described a vision, policy targets and a programme of action for the region prior to election - a programme which will have been scrutinised and will have competed against those of other candidates. That policies will have been endorsed by the electorate will lend those policies a particular strength and provide the necessary basis to depart, if necessary, from existing policies and methods, to re-prioritise and to innovate.
Too often, local government can seem to be little more than a provider of everyday, but essential services that are often taken for granted. Local authorities are regarded simply as service delivery agencies. The public can be unaware of the resource allocation dilemmas and the complexity of policy making, which Dublin's councillors and local authority officials routinely grapple with to pursue the common good. The election of the mayor and the visibility the office will enjoy will also help inform the public as to many of the complex and pressing issues addressed by local government. The local government electors of the Dublin region will have a greater awareness of the personalities, policies, party positions, current debates, challenges, etc. of local government. This can only be a positive development.
The introduction of a directly elected regional mayor is a new departure and an historic development in Dublin's local government. Visibility and accountability go hand in hand. Accountability is necessary for good governance. The mayoral electoral process will help create a more vital arena for the discussion of local government matters. The legitimacy derived from a popular election by 1 million plus electors will present the directly elected regional mayor with a particularly strong mandate. I am sure that strengthened public connection with Dublin's local government leadership will also enhance the credibility of local government. Local government's platform to act as an initiator of cross-institutional activity and a mobiliser of other State agencies providing services locally will also be improved.
Mayors are, first and foremost, leaders. Leadership evokes ideas of purpose, direction, mobilisation, management, trust and innovation. The directly elected mayor of Dublin will provide this leadership, a role that will be manifest in a number of respects.
Complex problems can require complex solutions. For the best outcomes, public bodies must provide solutions which are co-ordinated with other public sector activities. A new coherence in inter-local authority strategic activity in the Dublin region will be brought by the mayor. This integrative role has the potential to strengthen cohesion well beyond the confines of local government. A simple but illustrative example will be the capacity of the mayor, working in partnership with national economic development agencies and capable of speaking on behalf of Dublin's local authorities on strategic matters, to help secure investment in the region.
I will set out the mayor's individual strategic planning and oversight roles in detail shortly. The Bill provides for a broad remit for the mayor to bring together and focus public service activity on meeting the challenges the region faces. The regional development board, involving major public sector, education and enterprise interests from across the region, chaired by the mayor and replacing the four city and county development boards which are currently operated by the Dublin local authorities, will be an important platform for the mayor to bring greater cohesion to the economic, social and cultural development of the region. This integrative role is in keeping with the Government's thinking on local government's evolving mission.
The Transforming Public Services programme recommends that local government structures should be drawn on to enhance public service delivery and that local authority structures should be adopted more generally as the basis for the planning, organisation and delivery of services at the local level. Greater coherence between different levels of government and of the public service is fundamental to more efficient and effective operation. The mayor will be well placed to help advance public service initiatives for a more integrated public service that can achieve better value for money and enhanced customer service.
The capacity of an officeholder to speak on behalf of the community, voice a shared perspective, raise concerns and request action is an important element of leadership. The mayor will have a natural role as a community spokesperson and be able to represent the Dublin regional community on regional issues in a new fashion.
Promoting the region and, by extension, the country as a whole on the international stage will be an important task of the mayor, who can act as an ambassador for the region and the city. The mayoral office will also provide a clear access point for other stakeholders, such as community groups, the business community, Departments and State agencies, all of which will be better able to communicate on strategic regional issues with a single champion.
I anticipate that the mayor, democratically accountable to the people of the region, will also have a strong predisposition to adopting the perspective of the service user rather than the service provider and will place due emphasis on the public and business community's concern for outputs and impacts as opposed to an institutional focus on inputs and processes.
This Bill represents an historic dialogue with Dublin's past. Dublin has had a mayor for almost 800 years and it is, therefore, among our oldest civic institutions. From 2014, I intend that the offices of the lord mayor and the regional mayor will be merged. The Dublin mayor will, from 2014, be titled Lord Mayor of Dublin to ensure that the pre-eminent local government leadership position in the Dublin region is occupied by the directly elected mayor. The prerogatives associated with the lord mayoralty, including occupancy of the Mansion House, will be assumed by the directly elected mayor of Dublin. The post-2014 merger will not be an abolition of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, but an extension and enhancement of that office in terms of jurisdiction, powers and mandate as directly elected lord mayor of the city and the region. The residence of the directly elected mayor of Dublin in the Mansion House and holding the lord mayor's historical prerogatives represent a return to the proper status the mayoralty should enjoy. From 2014, the four Dublin local authorities will each be led by a cathaoirleach. Legislation arising from the forthcoming White Paper will provide for these changes.
I will now describe the specific objectives and intended benefits of this legislation. The directly elected mayoralty will mark a significant shift of power to the elected tier of local government. It will also provide a number of principal benefits. It will strengthen local government leadership, responsibility and accountability in Dublin. The direction provided by the mayor will result in a more efficient system of local government with better outcomes in the economic, social, cultural and environmental spheres for the citizens and businesses of Dublin. The mayor and strengthened regional authority, working with and through the Dublin local authorities, will bring greater coherence to regional policy making in the critical areas of land use planning, transport, waste management, water services and housing. The legislation will provide greater flexibility by giving Dublin local government greater scope to innovate and to develop regional and local responses to regional and local challenges. The introduction of the Dublin mayor will bring the leadership of local government in the region in line with models found in successful cities and regions across the world and, in so doing, contribute to a better future for this city.
The mayor will be the pre-eminent figure within the local government system in Dublin. As leader of the regional authority, he or she will have a range of important statutory functions, including responsibility for establishing and overseeing the future physical development of Dublin city and region by setting out regional planning guidelines by which the Dublin local authorities must abide; an important role in respect of transport in Dublin, leading the Greater Dublin Area TransportCouncil within the National Transport Authority; responsibility for ensuring the delivery of an environmentally sustainable approach to waste management in Dublin by proposing and overseeing the implementation of the Dublin region waste management plan; responsibility for maximising conservation and efficient use of water resources and the safe treatment of waste water through proposing and overseeing the implementation of the Dublin regional water services plan; responsibility for leading and promoting a dynamic city region, both at home and abroad, by championing Dublin in partnership with national development agencies and by bringing all key public and private sector interests together in a new regional development board; potential for promoting quality housing and sustainable communities; and responsibility for promoting the protection and enhancement of Dublin's environment. Operational matters will continue to rest with the four Dublin local authorities, working within the framework laid down by the mayor.
The mayor will be supported by a regional authority elected from among the members of Dublin's local authorities. The existing regional authority will be dissolved and replaced by the numerically smaller, but stronger authority to coincide with the election of the first mayor of Dublin. The regional authority will have a number of functions, those being, to examine and propose amendments to plans proposed by the mayor, to make strategic plans with reserve powers available to the mayor to ensure that plans meet with legal and policy requirements, and to oversee and provide a forum for the mayor to account for his or her actions and a statutory process by which strategic plans are made in a transparent manner. The indirect election of the members of the authority from among the four Dublin local authorities will ensure a strong institutional linkage between the regional and local authorities and a level of expertise and working knowledge of local and regional government in Dublin. The indirect election of the members of the regional authority from among the four Dublin local authorities will ensure a strong institutional linkage between the regional and local authorities and a level of expertise and working knowledge of local and regional government in Dublin among the members of the regional authority.
The costs of funding the Dublin mayor and supporting structures will be met entirely from within the local government sector and will not involve additional resources in that context. Opportunities to reduce costs are being taken. The new, strengthened regional authority provided for in the Bill will have 16 elected members while the authority it will replace has 30.
The Dublin local authorities already support the costs of the existing regional authority and fund the range of collaborative work across the region which will now be drawn together, with costs being consolidated in the new authority. There will be offsetting savings on functions currently performed by other bodies. The staffing structure will be relatively modest and will be drawn from the local government sector. Numbers will be a small proportion of overall savings in local authority staffing under the efficiency review process.
Most important, costs will be significantly outweighed by anticipated benefits in a range of key areas. I already referred to many of these benefits, such as leadership, democratic mandate, flexibility, greater regional coherence and strategic policy setting. In addition, the role of the directly elected mayor has a strong underlying economic rationale, including supporting regional development, by working to help attract and retain investment, acting as a point of contact for commercial interests in the region and working to encourage greater value for money, efficiency and improved customer service in local government for the citizens and businesses of Dublin. On foot of the setting up of the McLoughlin commission, chaired by Mr. Pat McLoughlin, there is now an efficiency review group solely for the Dublin region which will ensure we make substantial cost savings and improve the efficiencies in the region.
I remarked that Ireland's model of local government leadership is somewhat out of step with modern norms internationally. A wide variety of local government leadership models exists in Europe, reflecting the Continent's diverse histories, political cultures, and constitutional and legal frameworks. In certain countries such as Germany and Austria a variety of leadership models co-exist. However, the election of a mayor is by far the most popular model among our European neighbours. In North America, directly elected mayors are a common form of local government leadership. International trends have been strongly toward the direct election of mayors. The new democracies of central and eastern Europe have opted in the main for direct election; as have London, Australia and New Zealand more recently.
Mayors in other parts of the world have made lasting contributions. Mayor Giuliani's leadership in New York following the terrible events of autumn 2001-----
-----is one of the most striking in recent decades. Willy Brandt's tenure as mayor of West Berlin in the 1950s and 1960s provided a strong voice of democracy in Europe during the Cold War.
One only has to look across to London to see the success of Ken Livingstone and, latterly, Boris Johnston, to know that a mayor can have a significant impact on a capital city. I hope that future Dublin mayors will lead and inspire as these individuals have, albeit in less troubled circumstances.
Political institutions must evolve. I intend that the Dublin mayor's powers will evolve over time, in line with the experience of the office. A specific mechanism is being provided to facilitate this. The Bill provides for a statutory review process, within two years, of the objectives and functions of the authority, and the needs and administration of the region as a basis for possible amendments to the underpinning legislation. The review, to be conducted by the Minister and the mayor, will provide an opportunity for the mayor to make proposals to maximise efficiencies and achieve best value for money for the citizens and business of Dublin.
As is customary, I wish to give an overview of some of the main provisions not already mentioned. With a Bill of 179 sections I do not propose to attempt a comprehensive synopsis of all the provisions and will, accordingly, take the many standard or technical legal provisions as read.
I move to Part 2 of the Bill which provides for the introduction of a directly elected mayor of Dublin, the establishment of the regional authority of Dublin and related matters. The usual disqualifications apply, including for Ministers and Ministers of State. A Member of the Oireachtas or a Member of the European Parliament may stand for election but will cease to be a member of the Dáil, Seanad, or European Parliament, on being elected as mayor. The mayor will be obliged to prepare a strategy statement within six months of election, specifying key objectives, outputs and related strategies, as is the case with other public bodies.
The regional authority will consist of 16 members, including the mayor, who will be the ex officio chair. The cathaoirligh of the four Dublin local authorities will be ex officio members of the authority during their terms of office. The objectives of the regional authority include the sustainable development of the Dublin region, greater efficiency in the provision of local government services in the region, greater co-ordination and co-operation between public and private sector bodies, the promotion of the Dublin region as a desirable location in which to live, work and invest, and greater co-ordination in the development of the Dublin and mid-east regions.
The general functions of the authority are listed in section 18 of the Bill. These include the establishment of strategic policy frameworks for the Dublin region and oversight of their implementation; reviewing the environmental, physical, economic, social and cultural environment in the Dublin region; promoting co-operation, joint action and joint arrangements between the authority and public and other bodies; promoting enterprise and innovation in the Dublin region; and evaluating public service provision in the region, including improving service co-ordination.
There is specific provision for a chief executive of the authority and standard type provisions relating to staffing. The mayor may personally appoint up to five members of staff with relevant experience and expertise for the duration of the mayor's term of office. Local authorities may provide staff and services subject to conditions in the legislation.
Part 3 of the Bill provides for the strategic regional functions of the mayor and the regional authority. Under sections 37 to 45, the mayor will have the power to initiate the preparation of regional planning guidelines, for adoption by the regional authority of Dublin and the mid-east regional authority. If the authorities fail to make appropriate guidelines, there will be power for the mayor to do so, subject to specified requirements.
Sections 46 to 51 provide for the preparation by the mayor of draft waste management plans to be made formally by the regional authority of Dublin, in place of the four local authority managers. As in the case of regional planning guidelines, there is a default power for the mayor to make the plan in lieu of the authority, where necessary. The local authorities will be required to take necessary steps to attain the objectives of the plan.
Sections 52 and 53 contain similar provisions for the making of a water services strategic plan for the Dublin region by the regional authority on a proposal from the mayor who, again, will have default power to make the plan in accordance with the provisions of the Bill.
Part 4 of the Bill contains provisions relating to housing and transport. Sections 56 to 63 set out the role of the mayor and the regional authority in regard to transport planning for the Dublin region which is of particular significance given the hitherto somewhat restricted sectoral role of local government in Ireland. The National Transport Authority, NTA, must consult the regional authority in regard to a draft transport strategy. The mayor will chair a 12-person greater Dublin area transport council within the NTA, which will oversee and approve the preparation of a transport strategy for the greater Dublin area by the NTA, and similarly with the NTA's strategic traffic management plan for the area. The council will monitor the implementation of the transport strategy, the NTA's integrated implementation plan and the strategic traffic management plan in respect of the greater Dublin area, and may make recommendations to the NTA in that regard and on the performance of the NTA's functions generally in respect of the greater Dublin area.
Part 5 of the Bill provides for a significant range of specific powers and functions which will further underpin the role of the mayor. Section 65 empowers the mayor to give a direction to Dublin local authorities to ensure compliance with regional planning guidelines, a waste management plan or a water services strategic plan. The mayor may also issue advice or guidelines to the local authorities to which they must have regard.
Section 68 empowers the mayor to make recommendations in regard to local authority budgets and the manager and the local authority will be legally obliged to have regard to these. Should a local authority choose not to adopt a recommendation it must attach a statement to its budget giving the reasons for its decision.
Under section 69, the mayor may direct two or more local authorities to form a joint committee and to delegate specified local authority functions to it. In addition, section 70 empowers the mayor to direct, following consultation with the authorities concerned, that a particular local authority function be performed by one local authority on behalf of another. The mayor may also direct that two or more local authorities enter into an agreement for the joint discharge of a function and local authorities are legally obliged to comply with these directions. Section 70 empowers the Mayor to direct, following consultation with the authorities concerned, that a particular local authority function be performed by one local authority on behalf of another. The mayor may also direct that two or more local authorities enter into an agreement for the joint discharge of a function and local authorities are legally obliged to comply with these directions.
The mayor may establish a voluntary community fund for the purposes of providing financial support to community undertakings in the Dublin region, such as recreational or cultural facilities, and promoting community development or full participation in society by disadvantaged people. The authority may accept gifts and engage in fund-raising for this purpose. Normal accountability requirements are applied in relation to community funds. This part of the Bill also requires the Mayor to report to each of the Dublin local authorities on relevant matters and account for his or her performance at annual meetings.
Part 6 contains a number of provisions to ensure consistency between national policies and the policies of the regional authority. This involves provision for the issue of ministerial guidelines, policy directives and mandatory directions, where appropriate, in regard to the performance of functions under the legislation in terms of planning, waste and water. Sections 78 and 79 provide protection to so-called whistleblowers reporting an offence, breach of ethics legislation or other wrongdoing in regard to a local authority, and prohibit employers from penalising or threatening penalisation against such employees, unless a person has acted in bad faith.
Part 7, which sets out electoral provisions, accounts for a substantial portion of the legislation running from sections 80 to 172, inclusive. Members may be relieved to hear that I do not propose to attempt even a cursory summary of these since they are standard provisions. I will only observe that they reflect clearly the fact that the office of mayor of Dublin and regional authority of Dublin will be integral parts of the statutory infrastructure of local democracy.
The remaining provisions of the Bill, contained in Part 8, address the dissolution of the existing regional authority and consequential matters, and the two Schedules, dealing respectively with meetings and procedures rules and the form of the ballot paper for mayoral elections, are largely technical and do not require comment in the context of this overview. Some further provisions will be added on Committee Stage, as drafting had not been finalised for publication of the Bill, for example, provisions in respect of placenames, including provisions dealing with the Dingle issue.
This Bill constitutes the first important tranche of the initiatives set out in the Government's programme for the development of the local government system and follows the publication in September of the report of the Limerick local government committee, which the Government will be considering soon. The main body of proposals for local government reform and development will be set out in the White Paper on local government. A Cabinet committee is finalising the White Paper, which will address and present agreed Government policy on a wide range of local government matters, including the primacy of democratic leadership in local authorities; local government structures, including town local government; regional governance; and the funding of the local government system.
I Intend to publish the White Paper as soon as possible following completion of the Government's deliberations. The findings and recommendations in the report of the independent local government efficiency review group, published in mid-July, are being considered by me, and by the Government. Alongside the introduction of the Dublin mayor, efficiency measures and other savings of over €500 million will be pursued across the entire local government sector arising from the review group's report and related initiatives. This is on top of the €300 million in savings already achieved by local authorities in the past two years.
In Dublin alone, these savings will be significant. As recently as last week, I established an independent group to review the staffing complement in Dublin City Council. The independent group will review the staffing complement in Dublin city and recommend, within six months, action to reduce staffing in line with the recommendations of the review group report with particular emphasis on the number of senior managers.
This is very important legislation. I am aware that the proposal to establish a directly elected regional mayor has met with a degree of scepticism from some quarters. This, I believe, arises from a combination of misunderstanding, fear that a mayor with a popular mandate might pose a threat to some power bases and an innate sense of conservatism in Irish public affairs. That conservatism is manifested, for example, in a tendency not to encourage risk-taking but rather to punish relatively minor failure that is often a natural companion of enterprise. Above all, it is reflected in the failure of many of our political systems and institutions to develop to any significant degree since the foundation of the State or, in the case of local government, since the 19th century.
However, conservatism did not save us from recklessness in the past. It has largely been a conservatism, not of prudence, but of complacency. The severe effects of that recklessness will force us to abandon such complacency. We must innovate in many sectors - in enterprise, technology and in public affairs. The Dublin mayor will be an important element of necessary innovation in public administration, and a spearhead for the wider changes that will flow from the White Paper when it is published.
The Government's programme of June 2007, states that "we will introduce a directly elected mayor for Dublin with executive powers by 2011". I am very happy to bring this commitment a step closer to its fulfilment and I commend the Bill to the House.
The principle of a directly elected mayor of Dublin will find political favour with Fine Gael. We have no difficulty with the principle of having representatives directly elected by the people into a very significant office. However, I do not believe this is the appropriate time to proceed with this legislation and urge that it be deferred until 2014 in line with the local and European elections.
This is not an appropriate time to introduce legislation for another political position that has very little power and influence and offers principally civic and ceremonial duties to the office holder. As well as that, the Minister is bringing forward the position of a directly elected mayor at a time when he has no proposals or White Paper on local government reform, which he promised to have by the end of 2008. We shall have leaders of local government in Dublin, five local authorities and 148 public representatives at local level.
I believe this is a vanity project of the Minister. He cannot wait to put it through in legislation out of a sense that he is creating history in local government. However, he is not creating any office that will enhance the city of Dublin while he is failing to reform existing local government structures.
The Minister's speech constitutes an attempt on his part to vindicate a principle he has established over a period of time, and enshrined in the programme for Government. However, he has failed within Cabinet to get any real justification for the office on the basis of the power and influence it will have. The Bill to create a new directly elected mayor for Dublin will establish an expensive and powerless position, and this will have to be paid for by tax increases on businesses and increases in household charges because the savings that would have been made in local government budgets this year through the efficiency review group will be spent on this initiative.
The Minister has had serious problems regarding his assertion that this will not cost anything. A working group in his Department has been meeting with the four Dublin local authorities. The outcome of these deliberations is to the effect that the cost of a directly mayor of Dublin will be €5 million for staff costs for about 30 to 40 people, €2 million for facilities and €1 million for holding the election. That is €8 million for the costs of establishing this office.
I asked the questions and the Minister misled me. He is trying to mislead the people of Dublin to the effect that there will be no cost, and that the office of the directly elected mayor and the costs associated with it will be absorbed by the existing four local authorities.
The Minister is trying to mislead the people of Dublin into believing that the office of the directly elected mayor of Dublin and the costs associated with it will be absorbed by the existing four local authorities but there is a price to be paid for it in terms of higher charges for businesses.
As previously announced by the Minister, there will be four advisers in respect of water, waste, planning and housing, whom I am sure will have to have a salary commensurate with that of a Minister of State, so we are getting nothing for free.
The mayor's powers will be limited. Despite previous promises, the position does not have any real power over day to day Dublin transport operations or policy and the mayor will merely sit on the advisory board of the National Transport Authority. The mayor will have no power over budgets of the Dublin local authorities and no role in housing policy for the Dublin region. On planning, waste and water policy, the balance of power always rests with the regional or local authority. These bodies set the regional plans for these policy areas with the mayor, but the mayor is limited to overseeing the drafting and consultation of the plans. When it comes to final plans, the mayor only has the power to remove from the agenda items that are inconsistent with existing policies. In respect of all other policy issues, the mayor only has the power to issue non-binding advice and offer guidelines - a talking shop.
The proposed election in 2011 is out of touch with the local elections cycle. A section of the Bill seeks to bring this into line with local government elections. However, the Minister is proceeding to hold it out of sync with the local government elections by holding it in 2011. The Minister agrees with the principle of deferring the election to 2014 but has prioritised holding it in 2011 as the number one issue in local government. He has cajoled and browbeaten his Fianna Fáil colleagues into giving him this vanity project which will cost consumers in Dublin additional money in 2011.
The four existing local authorities are required to fund this office and the regional authority of Dublin. Payments to the regional authority by the local authorities will be commensurate with each local authority's proportion of the population in the region. The total payment made by the four authorities will equal the estimated expenditure of the authority less the authority's anticipated income. The Minister will be aware that the current funding position of the four local authorities is precarious and that he will be making it even more precarious by cutting their expenditure in the 2011 Estimates. The huge funding commitment of the new regional authority and mayor will result in higher taxes and charges to households and businesses.
Let us turn now to the role of the mayor in various aspects of Dublin activity and life, the first of which is transport. The proposed role of the mayor in directing transport policy in Dublin is far short of previous promises by Government or the Green Party. The policy of the mayor chairing the Dublin Transport Authority was abandoned when that body was replaced by the National Transport Authority. It is noteworthy that the draft version of the Bill left the transport section blank as Government struggled to find a role for the mayor in transport policy. The proposal in the Bill as published falls far short of those expectations previously outlined and as such the Minister has failed to get any meaningful role in transport for the newly directly elected mayor.
The Bill states that the regional authority of Dublin will be merely one among many bodies with which the National Transport Authority will consult in regard to a draft transport strategy. The mayor will chair a 12 person greater Dublin area transport council within the National Transport Authority, which is an exceptionally bright function. I am sure the occupant of the office will be delighted to chair a 12 person committee that will have no power. Five members of the council will be nominated by the Minister for Transport. The Cathaoirleach of the Mid-East Regional Authority shall, ex officio, be a member of the council and the National Transport Authority will service the council. The council's powers are severely limited. It will oversee the preparation of a transport strategy for the greater Dublin area. The National Transport Authority will prepare a draft transport strategy directed by the council and will submit a draft of the strategy to the council for approval. The Minister for Transport maintains the power to issue any direction in relation to Dublin transport policy.
As regards the Dublin mayor and planning, the regional authority of Dublin and Mid-East Regional Authority will jointly make regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area. Guidelines must be made not later than sixyears after the making of previous guidelines and must be reviewed not less than once in every six year period thereafter. The balance of power in relation to planning remains with the regional authorities and the Minister, not the mayor. The mayor will have no function in relation to planning. The mayor will have the power to initiate the preparation of regional planning guidelines. However, before drafting regional planning guidelines, the mayor must consult with the planning authorities within the greater Dublin area, give public notice of his or her intent to prepare draft guidelines, and invite submissions and consider all submissions and make a report to the regional authority of Dublin and Mid-East Regional Authority on the submissions received. The mayor will be required to ensure that draft guidelines are consistent with the National Transport Authority's transport strategy.
To shoehorn a meaningful role for the directly elected mayor in the area of planning, the process for setting and agreeing regional planning guidelines is confused and overly complicated. For example, the mayor must prepare and submit a proposed draft of the guidelines to the regional authority of Dublin and Mid-East Regional Authority, on which the regional authorities may make recommendations. Having considered the recommendations and having consulted further with the Cathaoirleach of the Mid-East Regional Authority, the mayor may then prepare draft regional planning guidelines and must publish a notice stating that draft guidelines have been prepared. Before the making of the guidelines, the mayor shall prepare a report on any submissions received. However, at the end of the day the Mid-East Regional Authority will make the decision and the mayor will have no say. The local authorities of the greater Dublin area are required to accede to any reasonable request by the mayor to provide resources or perform any task necessary in relation to the preparation, making or review of the regional planning guidelines in respect of the greater Dublin area, but the mayor will no authority or clout in making it happen.
As regards waste policy, a subject close to the Minister's heart, under current procedures a waste management plan is carried out as an executive function by the manager of a local authority. In Dublin, a joint plan of the four Dublin local authorities is prepared by the four managers. The regional authority of Dublin will be required to review the existing waste management plan at least every five years and to vary or replace the plan as necessary. It will be a function of the mayor of Dublin to prepare a draft of the plan for the Dublin region or of a variation or replacement plan and in doing so the mayor must comply with a policy directive of the Minister. The mayor is also required to conduct a public consultation procedure and to consult with the Dublin local authorities and other public bodies - consultation but no influence or power in regard to implementation.
The regional authority of Dublin, having considered the draft plan for waste or replacement or variation of a plan prepared by the mayor, may formally make the plan unless, in the opinion of the mayor, the plan would be inappropriate, whatever that means. In such circumstances, the mayor must notify the regional authority of Dublin of his or her concerns and request that the authority make amendments to the plan. Should the regional authority opt not to amend the proposed plan accordingly, the mayor may make the plan. A plan so made by the Mayor must contain parts of the proposed plan and must be sent to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for approval. The mayor can talk, prepare plans, seek amendments and submissions and so on but he or she will have no power or influence over waste management, an issue close to the heart of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The Dublin local authorities will be required to take the necessary steps in relation to their functional area to attain the objectives of the Dublin region waste management plan. Nothing changes.
On water policy, the regional authority of Dublin will have the power to make a water services strategic plan for the Dublin region on proposal from the mayor. The mayor will put a proposal in regard to the provision of water to the regional authority, which will be reviewed every six years. There is much reviewing and consultation in regard to water policy, much as there is in regard to transport and waste policy. The regional authority of Dublin may not make or replace a water services strategic plan which in the opinion of the mayor is inappropriate. It would be interesting to hear the definition of "inappropriate".
In terms of the duties and responsibilities of the directly elected mayor, the mayor and regional authority of Dublin will have no power in regard to housing policy. The four Dublin regional housing authorities are required, when making a housing services plan, to have regard to the objectives of the regional authority in Dublin and to furnish the authority with a copy of the draft housing services plan, no more and no less.
In terms of the other powers of the mayor, which the Minister alleges is a powerful office, the mayor may give a direction to the Dublin local authority requiring that the local authority must act or refrain from acting in a particular manner so as to ensure compliance with a regional planning water or waste plan, but before doing so the mayor must consult with the local authority in question. The local authority must comply with such a direction of consultation. The mayoral direction may not be inconsistent with the Minister's policy or view. The Minister makes the decision.
The point I am making is that all of the various lofty ideas enunciated through the contribution of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the debate earlier are meaningless. This particular office has no clout or influence and no opportunity to exert that influence in regard to the issues of housing, water, waste and planning.
The mayor has no real power over the preparation or use of local authority budgets. The managers of the Dublin local authorities are only required to consult with the mayor when preparing a draft budget at the same time as consulting with the relevant local authorities' corporate policy group. The mayor may make recommendations on the draft budget to the manager but the manager and the local authority concerned are required to have regard to the mayor's recommendations in the preparation and adoption of the budget, and they can then duly ignore that person. The mayor, having consulted with the local authorities, can make recommendations but he or she has no power or influence over the outcome of that particular consultation.
The Bill proposes the establishment of a range of new quangos and other bodies at a time when the Government is attempting to streamline and cut costs. The Bill proposes the establishment of a Dublin regional authority office plus associated staff; an office of Dublin mayor plus associated staff; a National Transport Authority Dublin advisory board; a Dublin regional authority development board; and an unlimited number of inter-authority committees and mayoral advisory committees. What a waste of time and resources at this particular point in our history when the country is on its knees financially. Why would the Minister set up more quangos instead of removing the ones not currently required?
Fine Gael has no difficulty with a meaningful and powerful position being adopted by the citizens of Dublin to elect somebody who will give focus and attention to the many issues required to be resolved in Dublin across a range of services and programmes but we will not go along with the establishment of an office because the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in the programme for Government, wishes such a person to be elected. This person is to be elected for the sake of having somebody there, in addition to the existing four local authorities and the four managers, with the same level of public representation. That is fantasy land. That is in line with what one would expect in a totalitarian regime in eastern Europe in the past - a communistic regime. This sort of diktat from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, by establishing such a figurehead, is nonsense in these straitened financial times.
I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, to review the decision to proceed in 2011 and put it back in line with the local government elections, as he already outlines in section 85 of the Bill, and to take a common sense approach regarding the powers and influence of this position but, equally, to have some consideration for ordinary people in businesses in Dublin city and county who are paying sufficient costs to local authorities currently at a time when they need to keep their costs down. We do not need another vanity project by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that will put a tax on the people of Dublin through the creation of an unnecessary office at this time.
Ciarán Cuffe (Minister of State , Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Minister of State , Department of Transport; Minister of State , Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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The Chamber of Commerce thinks we should.
Ciarán Cuffe (Minister of State , Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Minister of State , Department of Transport; Minister of State , Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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Good. I am glad that is clear.
It is not representing its members well when it is seeking to have an office put in place that does not have the power or the influence to do the job it would expect it to have, and the Minister of State is not doing that on its behalf. That is the reason Fine Gael will be opposing this legislation on Second Stage.
I thank Deputy Hogan for giving me an opportunity to speak so early in the debate. All Dublin Deputies should speak in this debate because I believe if a free vote were held on this proposal from the Minister, Deputy Gormley, a significant majority of Deputies would be against it. I have yet to meet one Dublin Fianna Fáil Deputy who supports this proposal.
The former Lord Mayor, and even the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who presumably will be trooped through the lobbies to vote for this measure, has described this as a non-job. The former Lord Mayor said he would not be interested in it. What the Minister, Deputy Gormley, is doing now is an illustration of the arrogance of people like the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, and others. He is pushing through the Houses something that no one wants, that has not been thought out and that does not have popular support.
The Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, sits smiling on the opposite side of the House and tells us about the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. I did not realise he was such an advocate of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce but-----
Ciarán Cuffe (Minister of State , Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Minister of State , Department of Transport; Minister of State , Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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I sit down with its members on a regular basis. I do not know what the Deputy does.
If he is so convinced of his arguments on this proposal, he should put it to a referendum of the people of Dublin. Let us ask the people of Dublin if they want a directly elected lord mayor in the current context of the financial disaster the Minister of State and his cronies in Fianna Fáil have brought upon this country. They should ask the people of Dublin directly, not the Dublin Chamber of Commerce or any other representative body, if they want this.
The Minister of State tells us they do but has he asked them? Let us have the referendum and we will follow it up because this is not a serious proposal unless the Minister is prepared to take a number of actions. The Minister of State's colleagues in Fianna Fáil demolished local government in the 1970s when they effectively took away the funding base for local authorities. Everyone knows that. If the Minister were serious about doing something for effective government making in Dublin at a local level, as elsewhere in the country, the first thing he must sort out is a proper funding regime. The Minister is jumping fences before he has sorted out the fundamental problem.
The other problem is that if we are serious about a directly elected mayor, and I believe it is something worthwhile, the first thing we would do is radically amalgamate local government in all its facets throughout this country. It seems we are over-governed in terms of the number of local authorities we have throughout the entire country but if the Minister is not prepared to deal with that canard and he is not prepared to deal with the funding issue, dealing with this issue to the exclusion of local government reform in itself will not solve the problem.
What Dubliners want to see across the 12 constituencies and the four authorities is effective decision making, and many of the new authorities established in the past 15 years from waste to water have slowed down decision making. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, is a classic example of a person who is frustrating the will of many local authorities in Dublin to do things they want to do because of the over-centralisation he and others have brought to bear. The issue is a much more serious one and I ask the Minister to deal with it seriously. We have the potential to do something right in the long term but the Minister cannot possibly do that if he has not laid the proper foundation stones in terms of funding and a radical reorganisation of local government.
We are in a very difficult financial position. At some point over the next few weeks the Government will tell us whether we face an adjustment of €4 billion, €5 billion or €6 billion in 2011 and in my area of south Dublin that will lead to a reduction in the budget of between 10% and 15% locally. People in my constituency, and I suspect in other Dublin constituencies, want to know how we can provide services in a context where that adjustment will occur across the city and county. As Deputy Hogan said, they are not particularly interested in the vanity project of the Minister, Deputy Gormley-----
-----which is just another layer of bureaucracy on an existing disorganised and dysfunctional system of government in Dublin. What people want to know, in view of the diminishing resources of the city, is whether they can have their paths fixed and problems with public lighting and open spaces sorted out. The truth is that the budgets of the four local authorities will be reduced next year and in 2012 and 2013 to pay for the new vanity project that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, wants. When my constituents seek various amenities in their communities I will be telling them that money has been put towards the Minister's new mayor - that is, if the project ever sees the light of day, which I suspect it will not. I do not think we will ever have a vote on this because it will not get that far.
This is another example of an over-centralised Government - and, in particular, the Minister - running with a pet project that does not have popular support or a popular mandate. The Minister is refusing to give the people of Dublin city and county a referendum, as was the case in London, to tell us whether they want it. If the Green Party Members are so sure about whether the people of Dublin want a directly elected mayor, it should ask them. They do not have the right to foist this on them and neither do I. They should give them the right to vote.
Of course, they will not do that, because their own arrogance stands in the way. This is e-voting all over again, Dublin-wide. A Minister, caught in the headlights, realising he made the wrong call some years ago in going into Government with Fianna Fáil, has now decided he must leave his imprint on the office because he knows he is out the door within six months, and this is his contribution. It is not serious. It is evident that Fianna Fáil has taken over the Green Party lock, stock and barrel.
We had a fantastic speech by the Minister in which he told us the new mayor would be similar to Rudy Giuliani one minute and Boris Johnson the next. The mayor was going everything. Let us consider the question of oversight. The Mayor of London has an assembly - directly elected - which is clearly responsible for ensuring the mayor does his job. There will be no oversight of this new mayor. He or she is to speak once a year, as I understand it, to the four local authorities of Dublin, but will take no questions and there will be no oversight of what he or she does. There are also fundamental questions of financial accountability and whether the mayor is answerable to anyone. The Mayor of London is directly responsible for the budgets of Transport for London, the Greater London Authority, the London Development Agency, the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade. He sets their budgets. What will our new mayor do? He will advise the four local authorities on their budgets. If he disagrees with their budgets he will state that in a written document, but the four authorities can go on with their plans anyway if they append the mayor's comments to their budgets. That really make a difference. This new mayor will be writing reports to each of the four authorities, but they still have the power to determine a budget. This is completely unlike the case of London, where the mayor has direct financial responsibility for the five areas I have mentioned.
The key issue of transport was mentioned by Deputy Hogan. I will give some examples in this regard. If ever there was a need to bring together all the agencies and providers, public and private, and demand some joined-up thinking, it is in the area of public transport in Dublin city and county. However, the Minister's mayor will not be able to direct any of that. He will not be able to interfere on a day-to-day basis with the running of the bus and railway system in the Dublin region. He will not be able to increase or decrease public transport fares. He will not be able to do anything about taxis - we have a Commission for Taxi Regulation which is nothing to do with the mayor. He will not be able to introduce congestion charges as he will have no power to do so. That is the point. If the mayor cannot do these things, why exactly are we imposing this additional layer of bureaucracy on the people of Dublin, when the existing system is not working? This is something the Minister of State needs to answer in the course of this debate.
In that last minute I ask the Dublin Fianna Fáil Deputies who tell me privately that they are against this to stand up in the House this week, next week, or whenever, and state their views publicly. I challenge the Government, if it wants to go down this road, to ask the people of Dublin. Ultimately, the mayor has the capacity to be a leader of the local authorities in Dublin but to achieve this, existing local government systems must be reorganised - not just in Dublin city and county but across the country - and a proper funding mechanism must be put in place to underlie the new position. If these two things are not done, this job will be a non-job, as Deputy Bertie Ahern has described it. It is a job that will be around the neck of the Minister for the rest of his life.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
a) recognising the potential value for the greater Dublin area of a directly elected mayor, adequately resourced and with appropriate powers;
b) noting that the next local elections are not due to be held until 2014, and believing that it would be preferable for any election of a new mayor to be held in conjunction with those elections;
c) concerned at the potential cost of the new position and of the new regional authority for Dublin and the staffing levels that will be required to facilitate the authority and the mayor, and having regard to the serious economic crisis facing the country,
defers the Second Reading of the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010 until this date in 2012."
Am I to understand that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, who came to the House to read his speech and departed shortly afterwards, will not be listening to the contributions of the chief Opposition spokespersons in this area? I believe this is the case, and it is a great pity.
The Labour Party agrees in principle with the idea of a directly elected mayor for Dublin and recognises the potential value that such a position could bring to the greater Dublin area. However, the Bill as presented to the House today clearly demonstrates that now is not the time for such a measure. The Bill is not fit for purpose and, having examined its broader provisions, we find it falls well short of the earlier ambitions the Minister seemed to have for it and the potential that such a new office could have. What we have seen this afternoon clearly falls short of what the Minister was talking about a number of years ago.
The Minister first spoke about this Bill when the idea of a directly elected mayor in Dublin was put in the programme for Government in 2007. It was an ambitious idea to realise the potential of the greater Dublin area. However, what we now see is something that falls well short of this and is extraordinarily deficient in the way it has been presented to the House. What is being introduced to the House is a Bill that provides for the creation of a supra-bureaucratic structure, struck somewhere between the Office of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the existing local authorities, which will cost, conservatively, somewhere between €5 million and €8 million. The Minister disputed this figure earlier, but all examinations, particularly those carried out by the existing Dublin Regional Authority, have indicated that this is the case. I also note that the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, spoke earlier about the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Its position is that it wishes to have a directly elected mayor for the Dublin region, but I understand it believes the Bill before the House is deficient. While the Minister of State might claim the Dublin Chamber of Commerce is in favour of a directly elected mayor, it is somewhat disingenuous of him to say it totally endorses the legislation before the House this afternoon.
The Bill will introduce structures that will cost between €5 million and €8 million a year. The local authorities are to be asked to meet that cost from their own resources, with no transference of funds from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. At present the four Dublin local authorities donate approximately €4 million towards the Dublin Regional Authority. The provisions in the Bill will require substantial increases in that contribution. The Minister in creating the mayoral position is now asking the four Dublin local authorities to underwrite the costs of the position while no funding is coming from the Department. While he can argue that the cost of the position will be met from existing funding, he is saying it will be met from the local authorities' budgets and there will be no transference from the Department. This is interesting and indicates no devolution from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Real reform requires change at all levels of government. If we are to reform local government we must also reform national Government. If we are to introduce a directly elected mayor for Dublin as part of a reform process it is strange that only local authorities are being financially impacted by this and the Department is not being financially impacted. Clearly no devolution is taking place.
In establishing the position of mayor, the Minister should have audited the existing Departments to analyse the activities they carry out centrally and how these could be done locally to be delivered in a more efficient and practical way. For instance, the Department of Education and Skills has a number of functions that could be far more cost-effectively delivered at a local authority level. I refer to the planning of school buildings but not the setting of the curriculum or deciding pupil-teacher ratios. Local authorities could decide where schools should be built and how educational requirements can be met bearing in mind demographic changes. I believe a Dublin mayor could have greater jurisdiction in that regard, but that opportunity was missed in the Bill. Ultimately we have got a superstructure placed between the four Dublin local authorities and the Department with significant questions as to its role.
It could be argued that the Minister has created a watchdog, acting on his Department's behalf. No actions by the mayor can be taken without the approval or sanction of the Minister. There is talk about regional planning guidelines, but there are different kinds of guidelines. Regarding planning legislation, the new mayor does not have legislative powers but has four or five years to get guidelines together and to talk to some of the different groups that might be involved. We are being sold an illusion of reform but in reality the structure of local government is regressing with the proposals in the Bill. The Minister is introducing a quasi-position operating like a sort of local commissioner over local government, double checking that those local authorities are operating under the Minister's directives, particularly statutory instruments and legislation he is issuing, and ensuring that local government is behaving itself.
With this new structure, how does the Poolbeg dilemma the Minister has created get itself resolved? Will the new mayor be able to say he or she is implementing Government policy? If the local authority were implementing Government strategy, the incinerator would be under construction at the moment. However, the Minister's position is different from Government policy and as the mayor will be required to answer to the Minister's directives, what would he or she do? If he or she were to implement Government policy he or she would have to go against the Minister's directive. This shows the absurdity of the legislation before the House this evening.
Any actions or outcomes in the mayor's job description must be sanctioned by the Minister. We could well end up with a Dublin mayor who will not be able to blow his or her nose without the permission of the Minister, Deputy Gormley.
If the Labour Party amendment to the Bill is not accepted, we will end up with the creation of a greater Dublin area transport council, chaired by the mayor. Five people will be appointed by the mayor and five by the Minister of Transport. The council will also include the cathaoirleach of the Mid-Eastern Regional Authority, which I believe has 12 members.
There will be also a regional development board, comprising the mayor, the deputy mayor, the chief executive of the regional authority, the cathaoirleach of each of the four Dublin local authorities, the manager of each of the four Dublin local authorities, not less than two people from each of the following, who, in the opinion of the mayor, represent business or economic development interests; local enterprise, education or community development interests; development agencies interests; trade union interests; environment interests; and arts and culture interests, up to a maximum of 19 people. Some other sub-committees will arise from the legislation.
There also will be a Dublin regional authority, comprising the mayor, five members from Dublin City Council, five members from Fingal County Council, two members from South Dublin County Council and two members from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the cathaoirleach of each of those councils and, I believe, 16 members also. One does not need to be a genius to understand that a plethora of committees will be created. Since I got a copy of the Bill, I have read it from front to back. I have it dog-eared, foot-noted and everything else, but I cannot figure out what these committees will do in terms of legislation and what new powers they will have. As I said at the outset we need a Bill that is fit for purpose and this Bill certainly is not.
When the legislation is implemented Dublin will have 5.5 mayors because the new mayor will have a deputy mayor who will initially be appointed by the Minister and subsequently by the mayor with the Minister's approval. We will have 47 new positions within three new committees and none of us knows what they will be doing in legislation or what their legal standing will be. Others may have different views on the reform of local government. I believe powers should be devolved downwards and not upwards. However, the Minister is introducing some kind of evolved structure, which has evolved out of his own head, in between his Department and the local authorities, which will not work.
On every occasion we have discussed the proposed Dublin mayor during Question Time, the Minister has said the White Paper on local government reform would be published at the same time as he published this Bill, but that has not happened. That has not happened. Every time the Minister was asked during Question Time about this by either the Labour Party or Fine Gael, he said both Bills would be published concurrently and we would see the legislation on the mayoralty and the White Paper on local government. However, we are still waiting for the White Paper.
The Minister has arrived at the destination, which is the mayoralty of Dublin, without laying out the roadmap, which is the White Paper. That is a dangerous journey to make. It is dangerous to decide this is where he is going without deciding how to get there. We have, therefore, the Minister's defined position without knowing the structure the lord mayor will operate under in the future. If this was a business, this would be a bad contract. We are buying a pig in a poke by facilitating the Minister to put an office in place without outlining the structure underpinning it in the context of local government. This will make for bad legislation if Opposition spokespersons, regardless of our views on it, have to table amendments without knowing the super structure under which the office will operate. We have the final destination but we do not have the roadmap to get there and the Minister has still to provide us with it.
It is interesting that Fianna Fáil has not won at the local government elections since the 1980s. Its total national representation has been in decline since the 1980s.
Perhaps it is coincidental that local government has suffered during that time and the powers of local authority members have been retracted. The McCarthy report commented on minimising the role of local government. Deputy Connick and I were members of the AMAI before we entered the House and we both know local government has been subject to a process that can be best equated to constructive dismissal. If local government was an individual employed by a company and his or her powers and functions were removed over time, that would be seen as constructive dismissal. That has been happening since the foundation of the State. Local government has been undergoing a process of constructive dismissal led not only by the political establishment, but also by the Department.
The reason there are four local authorities in Dublin is the Department does not want to deal with an authority comprising all four because it would be too powerful to engage with. It does not matter what way the Minister dresses up this legislation or what clothing he puts on it because it is still a slug in a tuxedo. It is the worst form of compromise politics one will ever come across because the legislation has been compromised to such an extent that its objective will not be realised. The Minister referred to Rudolph Giuliani and New York but the powers the Dublin mayor will have will not come within a donkey's roar of those conferred on the mayors of New York or London.
We have arrived at a trade off whereby the Green Party gets to enact the Bill but Fianna Fáil will ensure it does not contain any powers. The Minister can come into the House to tell us he is introducing the legislation but Fianna Fáil backbenchers and Ministers have said, "Off you go, John, talk to the Opposition and everyone else but we know you are bringing in nothing that significantly changes the way government operates". That is the worst type of trade off.
This legislation has been almost three years in the making since it was announced in 2007. The Minister and his officials had a great deal of time to prepare it and that raises two questions. First, why is it so deficient given they had so much time to prepare it? Second, is this a deliberate outcome? George Bernard Shaw once said, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter". Did the Department spend three years deliberately ensuring local government would not be reformed or could the Minister not produce proper legislation within that period?
The legislation needs a total overhaul and not just amendment. That is why the Labour Party has tabled an amendment to defer the Bill. It is clear the greater Dublin region requires better than this. All local government reform requires better than this. As previously demonstrated, legislation brought before the House under the guise of reform does not always produce the desired results and we need no look further than the Health Act 2004, which gave birth to the HSE, for evidence in this regard. Something that is presented under the guise of reform sometimes does not deliver as we might expect. I am familiar with the Health Act 2004 because I served as the chairman of the one of the structures created under it. The Act repeatedly refers to the "reform programme" but we have ended up with a bureaucracy that has engaged in everything but reform.
The only guaranteed outcome of this Bill is that it will create an additional bureaucratic layer on top of the existing local government structure in a way that will drain resources from councils, impacting on their delivery of day-to-day services. The House could end up approving the expenditure of €8 million by passing this legislation, thereby ensuring workers will not be available to sweep the streets. Litter wardens or traffic wardens, for example, may be removed from their duties because the four local authorities have to pony up €8 million for this vanity project or trophy legislation introduced by the Green Party. The cost of the legislation must be taken from existing day-to-day budgets.
This is get it over the line legislation. It does not matter whether it is ready because the Minister will try to fix and improve it at a later date. We have had previous examples of this. There is a world of difference between having a good idea and developing it into good legislation. A directly elected mayor for Dublin is a good idea and there is unanimity in the House that this would be a good and positive development. A directly elected mayor is needed who can work within a legislative framework that is ambitious for Dublin and who sees the potential that such a structure could create for the greater Dublin area. It would be a good idea if the framework allowed him or her to realise that potential but the legislation falls well short of that. Regrettably, this is nothing new where the Government is concerned and this is not uncommon for the Green Party. The party had some brilliant ideas in the programme for Government. Their roll-out, however, has been appalling.
The second home tax was a good idea but there are still major deficiencies in the legislation; an amendment I tabled was not addressed by the Minister and court challenges are still outstanding on separations and the way second home tax is worked out for them. When the legislation went through the Seanad, we saw the debacle over caravans and mobile homes. It was a good idea badly managed and we are seeing the same this evening.
The vehicle registration tax proposal was a good idea that was badly managed. The dogs in the street know cars are bought between January and March but at the start of the year the Minister announced that he would change the taxation system for cars in the middle of the year. There was not a single forecourt where a car dealer could sell a car because people were afraid to purchase during that period. That was another example of good legislation, whereby taxation would be tied to emissions, was managed in such a way as to be detrimental to the motor industry. It was already in trouble but this caused even more difficulties.
The Planning and Development Bill that was before the House recently had entirely new sections introduced at the end of the process. The legislation was so badly managed that the Tánaiste had to come into the House to apologise on the Government's behalf.
The Dog Breeding Establishment was a good idea five years ago that enjoyed cross-party support to regulate puppy farms. It ended up being so divisive it nearly brought down the Government because its own backbenchers found it so difficult to support.
The list goes on. My favourite was the Minister's Bill on the international nuclear agreement to which Ireland is a signatory. That Bill proposed to fine someone €5,000 for setting off a nuclear bomb in Ireland were anyone around to pick up the fine afterwards.
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Could I question the relevance of nuclear disarmament to a mayor for Dublin? It seems slightly separate to the legislation under discussion in the House.
The relevance is clear. The Minister of State was not in the Chamber when I introduced the context. If he had attended for my full contribution, Deputy Cuffe would not need to upset himself. The relevance was that there is a difference between a good idea and the implementation of legislation. I said a mayor is a good idea but the Government's management of the issue is bad. I cited a number of examples where the Greens had good ideas but failed to manage the legislative process.
This is trophy legislation but unfortunately it does not work. It is a missed opportunity at a time when the country, and Dublin in particular, could do with ideas that would deliver. I am not one of those who thinks Dublin has too much or Dublin has too little - Dublin is the engine of the economy, a third of the population live in the Dublin area and it forms a significant part of the tax base of the country, and a huge part of the industrial base. It is important to all of us that Dublin works to the best of its ability and that its political structures deliver. The potential a mayor for Dublin would have in making that structure work is huge but this Bill is a missed opportunity.
At every point in history when countries have been on their knees, potential has arisen and from it real political change has been achieved, be it after the Second World War with the creation of the NHS in Britain, or the New Deal after the Great Depression. Great ideas could come from this crisis but what is before the House tonight, regrettably, does not realise the ambitions people have.
I tabled an amendment on behalf of the Labour Party asking that Second Stage of the Bill be deferred for two years. I hope the Government will take on board the arguments we have made and that when we conclude Second Stage and vote on the amendment we see sense and the Bill will be deferred.
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Great cities have good mayors. Wherever we look around the world, we see examples of civic leadership from strong and coherent executives and leaders. The challenge in Dublin at present is that the divide and conquer approach of four different local authorities with four different agendas, managers and mayors elected on a revolving basis simply does not work. Henry Kissinger asked who would he talk to if he wanted to talk to Europe.
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With all due respect to Mr. Bruton, he is a voice but possibly not the voice. We need someone to talk to when we want to talk to Dublin. At the moment there are four mayors, four managers and a plethora of organisational structures. We need a strong voice, an Ed Koch, a Pasqual Maragall and, whether we like it or not, a Boris Johnson; we need a strong, coherent voice for Dublin.
All across the world, strong cities have strong voices. Last week, we saw the passing of one of the most colourful voices in the south of France, Georges Frêche, the president of the Région Languedoc-Roussillon but the mayor of Montpelier for 27 years. Montpelier would not be Montpelier if it was not for the mayoralty of Georges Frêche. Like him or hate him, he was a strong voice for that city. That is why most French people say they would like to live in Montpelier. Barcelona would not be the same without the legacy of Pasqual Maragall, who brought the city from being an industrial backwater to be the host city for the 1992 Olympics. He made the city tick, he made it work effectively because he was a strong and dynamic civil leader who united the city and brought the Olympic Games to Barcelona. We all remember the scenes at the diving events, where the divers competed with the city as a backdrop. That was no accident, it happened because there was a strong mayor. We need such a mayor.
We need strong strategies and policies, that is why we need a mayor for Dublin. When I was put on to the Dublin Regional Authority 15 years ago, there were many voices in the room talking about Dublin but when it came to strategy and vision for the city, there was dissent. Some of the strongest voices who dissented from the need for good policies and planning are now before the courts. What we need in Dublin is a strong and dynamic leader, with the sort of leadership this legislation will introduce.
Four separate systems are not working. The analogy of a car was used earlier; we have four cylinders but the timing is wrong, they are not working together. We need the four cylinders to work right to produce a low carbon engine that ticks over and works effectively for this great city. It must be more efficient and coherent. When Fingal speaks with one voice, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown with another, South Dublin and Dublin City with others still, there is no coherence.
Visitors who come to Dublin are constantly confused about the various mayors from each of the city's local authorities. It is not just visitors but Dubliners who do not understand how this lump of metal of a mayoralty chain revolves every 12 months between different people who are at one time a voice for Dublin and the next gone from public view. We all remember the great mayors of Dublin city. I certainly have strong memories of Carmencita Hederman and her fantastic contribution to the city during the millennium year. Half way through the millennium year, she was replaced, however. That is no way to run a city or a region.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch is correct that Dublin is the driver for so much of the nation. We cannot change driver every 12 months and still expect coherent and effective leadership for the city. Drivers like the Richard Daleys found elsewhere are needed who will be the voice of the city for a long time.
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I note the attempts by both Opposition parties to belittle the proposed office despite it having powers to form strategies, plans and implement them.
I accept the mayor will not have the power to move a bus stop. However, I do not want one who just moves bus stops or moves double-yellow lines in Clontarf. I want one who thinks about the important issues for the city and puts in place an effective transport policy for it. That is what is important to me as a Dubliner. I want a mayor who is not dealing with problems with water pressure in Coolock but one who will deal with the issue of whether the city's future water supplies should be obtained from the rivers Shannon or Barrow.
A Member earlier questioned if there will be enough traffic wardens in Dublin. This legislation is about managing the traffic wardens from Balbriggan to Bray to ensure a coherence and value for money that is strongly lacking in the current set-up with four different local authorities. While in theory they co-ordinate their actions, in practice the good citizens of Dublin are left scratching their heads wondering who is in charge. A strong voice must be provided, one which will be there for the long haul.
If one does not like what the mayor does, one can still kick him or her out by using one's vote. It should be remembered that no one can do that under the current system. There are county managers in place for seven years and county and city councillors who are in and out of office in a short time. The way out of the current system of too much red tape is to have a mayor who will provide a single voice which will reflect all the many great aspects of Dublin city.
The legislation allows for a mayor to co-ordinate water, waste, transport and planning policies. Time and again, this House returns to the legacy of bad planning decisions across the country. The people of Dublin are still picking up the tab for mad rezoning decisions that took place in Dublin Corporation offices in the 1980s. Councillors were allowed rezone land without any great sense of responsibility and without a mayor who had the bigger picture about what makes a bustling, lively city with a citizenry that buys into its coherent vision. When it comes down to strategy, plans and implementation, the proposed Dublin mayor will have a coherent voice and be there for the long haul.
This legislation marks a step away from the confusion that exists with the current system. With all due respect we have had some decent mayors in Dublin but in many other countries, a city's lifeblood - its economy, cultural life and sense of place - is channelled through its mayor's office. One only has to look at Shirley Clarke Franklin in Atlanta, Martin O'Malley in Baltimore, and Fiorello La Guardia in New York City, all strong dynamic people who made things happen. I can easily recall the last four mayors of New York City – Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani who made their city tick and work.
The same kind of voice is needed in Dublin. That is why I strongly support this Bill and believe it is an important step in the right direction. We may have to amend it in six years time but the same happened with the mayor's office in London. Initially, it began with a few powers but over the years it gathered more momentum becoming a more effective office.
Dublin needs a directly elected mayor. Such an office will be good for Ireland, the four counties of Dublin and Dublin city.
I welcome this legislation. We are now mature enough in Dublin city and county to have this debate on the legislation. In the past, we were not ready for such a debate. As Deputy Cuffe pointed out, every major European and international city has a directly elected mayor. The programme for Government committed to introducing a directly elected mayor for Dublin with extensive executive powers. This Bill confers those powers on the proposed mayor.
The mayor will have a regional role. The greater Dublin region covered by the four existing Dublin local authorities has a vast and varied number of acquired services and needs. What is needed is an individual strong enough to pull the various strands of local government together. That will require a strong co-ordination of personnel, equipment, facilities and assets.
While never having the privilege of being a local authority member, I spent 20 years working closely with staff at all levels in Dublin City Council. The expertise, the experience and commitment the majority of these people bring to their jobs must be admired. Since the break-up of the old Dublin Corporation structure into four local authorities, my experience with Dublin City Council has been positive. The change from a one-size-fits-all corporation structure which covered a vast area and population brought local government down on to the streets of Dublin. I recall the then Dublin City Manager, Mr. John Fitzgerald, opened local council offices around the city, the best move a council ever made. It meant Dublin's citizens no longer had to go over to Civic Offices with its massive bureaucracy and from which it was difficult to get answers to questions. Despite the representations of some very able councillors at the time, it was always a matter of the corporation being over on City Quay and the council being over on the North side and never the two shall meet. The regionalisation of Dublin's local authority structure, the opening of local offices and the appointment of senior management with responsibility for each area, working in each area with the officials available to the residents in those areas was a great step forward for local government which has proved effective.
In my area of Dublin Central, for instance, Dublin City Council has no less than six or seven different regular community forums, at least once a month. At those meetings, representatives of residents' associations and communities have direct contact with council officials, whereas previously they had found it difficult to have such meetings. There is a responsibility on the officials to deliver because they face the people every day. In my district, the area office for Dublin City Council is probably one of the busiest buildings in the city, with people coming in and out all the time. The officials work extremely hard in difficult circumstances to provide a very good service.
This legislation will put somebody strong in place with responsibility for the whole region, which will be one of the keys to its success. Some of the powers that will be conferred by this legislation will be robust. They include responsibility for establishing and overseeing the future physical development of Dublin city and region by setting out regional planning guidelines, which the Dublin local authorities must abide by. The powers also include responsibility for ensuring the delivery of an environmentally sustainable approach to waste management, as well as responsibility for maximising conservation and the efficient use of water resources. In addition, the legislation envisages conferring responsibility for leading and promoting a dynamic city region at home and abroad, as well as championing Dublin abroad. One of the best results of having a lord mayor in Dublin is that the office will represent the city abroad on a regular basis. I have first-hand experience of how effective that is. When councillors travel abroad, it is a huge bonus to be accompanied by the city's lord mayor.
The elected lord mayor will also have responsibility for promoting quality housing and sustainable communities, as well as protecting and enhancing Dublin's environment. That is a major issue, particularly in Dublin city.
When one examines the details of the Bill there are obviously a number of concerns. Given my experience with Dublin City Council, one of my concerns is how the powers of the new mayor will impact on the role of directly-elected councillors. Councillors have played a major part in the life of the city and as the previous speaker said, we have had several strong city councillors over the years. Before the dual mandate was abolished the role of a local representative in Dublin Central was hugely effective. Many individuals played an important role in the development of the city as it is today. Councillors bring a local community emphasis to bear on how Dublin City Council does its business.
My fear is that this local emphasis may be lost if an individual, who may have an affinity for one area over another, was to take up the position of mayor. In such circumstances, that understanding of local issues could be lost. The Minister should examine that matter in the context of this legislation.
Another concern is about resources. Previous speakers referred to the unprecedented economic position we are in at the moment. The Minister has indicated that the office of mayor will not be an additional cost to the taxpayer and that the costs will be met entirely from within existing local government resources. However, local authorities are now cutting back on services, and drastically in some cases. I would not like to think that much needed funds to sustain basic services were being redirected to other areas. This issues arises in the context of what is being proposed in the legislation.
The Bill marks a significant shift in power within local government, so it must be handled extremely carefully. It is envisaged that the mayor will strengthen local government leadership and accountability in Dublin. It will also provide Dublin's local government with greater scope to innovate and develop regionally and locally, and to respond to local challenges. As a result of the Bill, there should also be greater coherence between the four Dublin local authorities and the regional authority concerning future policies, strategies and actions.
I welcome the opportunity to have this debate on a mayor for Dublin. Foreign cities have demonstrated how important it is to have somebody as a figurehead for a city. In that regard, I welcome the publication of the Bill.
While I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill, I cannot think of any other legislation to have come before the Dáil that has made me angrier than this measure. I cannot think of any legislation that is more ill-timed, inappropriate and pointless than this. When we look at the sorry state of our once proud and prosperous country, when we consider all the things that we should deal with in our national Parliament, and when I think of all the real concerns of those who depend on us to behave sensibly here, it is with complete disbelief that I see that a Minister - and, I suppose, the entire Cabinet - considers that a fifth mayor for Dublin is a priority for the Government.
The Minister, Deputy Gormley, is in the role of Nero, fiddling while Rome burns. He is demonstrating once again just how out of touch he is with the public mood and with what really concerns the general public. I have yet to meet any member of the public who thinks this Bill is a good idea. In its current form, it could not be worse. The public want jobs and they want to see the economy back on track. In addition, they want banks that will lend money rather than swallow it. They want an end to negative equity, a good health service and front line education and health services restored. They also want some stability and certainty, as well as a return to prosperity or at least some hope for the future. They do not want yet another sinecure or a further rake of quangos.
It is true that local government needs to be reformed. The Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, is right to say that it is not working well. Anyone who has ever been a member of a local authority, or a member of the public observing the operation of councils, will recognise that there is room for improvement. When we compare our local authority structures to those in other countries, we can see that is so.
There is undoubtedly a place for a leadership figure to give strategic direction in Dublin. I agree with the principle of a mayor for the city, but it must come in the context of a complete overhaul of local government in the capital. This Bill will not achieve that.
Through the years, there have been repeated attempts to breathe life back into local government and give it the kind of role we see that it has in many other countries. The Minister of State mentioned cities in several countries that have good mayors, including Georges Frêche in Montpellier. Monsieur Frêche transformed Montpellier but it was a completely different kettle of fish to the kind of mayor we will get from this legislation. He was not the fifth elected mayor in that French city. He had a budget, political back-up and all the things that are required to deliver a proper service to the public. The mayor envisaged in this Bill will have none of those things.
Where was local government strong, respected and responsible? The first of these attempts in my time was the deconstruction of the old Dublin County Council into three local authorities, which gave us four Dublin local authorities for the Dublin area. Deputy Cyprian Brady referred to regional offices around Dublin which, I agree, represent an improvement in public services. That is an element of local government that will remain no matter what we do to reform the structures of elected bodies. A few years later, however, we saw that the devolution of powers to four Dublin local authorities was not the solution. We then got another solution entitled "Better Local Government", which gave us a further accretion of local bodies.
There were strategic policy committees, community pillars, more meetings, meetings about meetings, and meetings to tell others about the meetings they had. Meanwhile, officials, whose time to do any work was greatly diminished, were exhausted by the need to service these pointless meetings and meetings about meetings. It was, and still is, a total travesty. It was called "better local government", but it was not so. Our solution to those mistakes is to make more mistakes rather than to roll back the mistakes of the past. Local Government has become the greatest talking shop of all time. At least an bord snip nua had the gumption to state that this emperor had no clothes and suggested its elimination as a waste of time and money, further suggesting it was more akin to anarchy than its stated aim of making local government more democratic.
One mistake made throughout the years has been to see local government reform as being about changing structures only when in fact functions, powers, responsibilities and the budgets are important. These are the things which matter to those we are supposed to serve. This legislation simply confirms the previous trends of changing structures and assumes that setting up a new body will somehow transform local government and make it more democratic and meaningful. The Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, spoke passionately about what is wrong with local government in Ireland generally and what is needed. He is correct and I agree with him in this regard. However, this legislation does not deliver and, in fact, makes the situation worse. He suggested the system of four Dublin local authorities was not working. Is the solution to have five? It cannot be; that makes no sense.
When it comes to structures, less is more. Reform of local government should consider a single body for Dublin with services provided locally and perhaps reflecting to some extent the local rate base in each area for spending, although there would have to be some distribution mechanism. However, this legislation fails completely in the lack of clear functions, powers and responsibilities for the news office. It would be sensible to have a single planning body, a single transportation authority for Dublin and a single waste authority. However, this legislation gives us none of these functions nor would it give these to any new, hapless Mayor. God help the poor creature who gets that job. The legislation simply tinkers with the problem around the edges and makes decision-making even more complex and time-consuming and less focused and utterly frustrating for those who must deliver the services to the population of Dublin.
From reading the legislation I am not surprised that the Minister did not go through it section by section. Normally, he would do so but not in this case because it is the most tortuous legislation I have seen. I congratulate those who drafted the legislation because it must have been the most tortuous job to find some role for the Mayor among the layers of bureaucracy already in existence.
Never have I seen legislation which referred more to issuing guidelines, the need to have regard to this or that, to review this or report on that, to monitor this or that and to endless consultation. All of this is simply an attempt to mask the absence of any real role or power for the new authority or Mayor. Ultimately, decision-making rests where it has always done, either with the Minister or with the local authorities or some other body with no connection to local government but with which it is supposed to liaise, for example, the police, the education authorities and so on. An attempt has been made to shoe-horn a role for the Mayor into existing structures but in reality the role of Mayor is a total irrelevancy. This is altogether a missed opportunity to do something really worthwhile with local government. However, local government has the potential to transform the lives of people in Dublin and elsewhere and to make real improvements for working and living conditions of the people.
This idea began back in the heady days of the Celtic tiger when it appeared a potentate for Dublin was just what we needed. However, the days of grand gestures, symbolic figureheads and grandstanding by "wannabe" dictators are gone. If the Minister genuinely seeks to make a difference for Dublin and for local authorities then he should go back to the drawing board. He should withdraw this legislation until we consider how fundamental reform can take place in local government. As I have stated previously, I support the concept of a Mayor for Dublin. We need somebody to speak out strongly for Dublin, perhaps a strong individual, made stronger by an elected majority of councillors, but not a single maverick or an egotistical prima donna. Even if the most worthy person in the world were elected, speaking for Dublin does not cut it and is not enough. Beyond this, we need someone to act for Dublin and this legislation will not provide that. That could only come as part of a major overhaul of the entire system. What the Minister proposes is merely a mouthpiece or a cipher who will, effectively, have no powers, no budget, no real function and, ultimately, no respect. I laughed when I heard the Minister refer to Mayor Rudy Guliani. What we are proposing could not be more different. He had powers, responsibilities, budgets and political support. Our Mayor would have none of these.
Let us consider other countries where local government works and where powerful mayors speak up for and act for their cities. It is almost always in the context of a list electoral system or similar system. In that way the party with the majority of elected members is the mayor. In that way, aspiring mayors or parties choose their list and the winner has an automatic majority and, therefore, can make decisions and can deliver on them.
Under the system proposed in this legislation, Uncle Tom Cobley could be elected with zero support from any other local authority. In such a scenario, no matter how charismatic or worthy a person may be, he or she would not achieve anything. There will be zero achievement unless there is political buy-in and support for proposals and any mayor would be utterly powerless. This is how it should be in a democracy; decisions should be taken by a representative of the majority and no one else. In his remarks, the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, stated that somehow having a Mayor will bring all the local authorities together. It will not. There will be competition. There is competition at present. If we are to introduce a Mayor with no political base, we should watch out for the competition and resentment that would emerge and the time that would be wasted as a result. Certainly, it would not benefit the people of Dublin.
The legislation is so arcane and complex that it is almost impossible to know who would make decisions in the new dispensation. There is so much proposed - cross-consultation with the existing bodies and with the plethora of new bodies proposed under the legislation - that the only possible outcome is bureaucratic chaos and indecision. The notion of achieving strong leadership, focused and responsible decision-making and speedy implementation of decisions is not only unlikely, but even less likely than under the current regime.
Unfortunately, the setting up of new quangos seems to be an essential part of any legislation and this legislation does not let us down in this regard. Not only would there be a new regional authority, but a new transport council and a new regional development board, the function of which I cannot begin to imagine. The functions of any of these bodies remain something of a mystery and the extensive lengths to which this legislation goes to provide a role to the office of the Mayor makes the whole project complete nonsense.
The notion of the original proposal, that the Mayor would have some role in the Dublin Transportation Authority, bit the dust when the Dublin Transportation Authority became part of the National Transport Authority. Let us role back the clock, having rolled it forward. Now we are to have a Dublin transport council in the National Transport Authority. I have experience of such a body in the past and this proposal appears suspiciously similar. I was a member of the advisory committee of the Dublin Transportation Office in the 1990s. I assure the House a more toothless body scarcely ever existed. It served to create meetings for public representatives and work for public officials but it did not change anything. In short, it was a farce and this body would represent another farce which would not achieve anything, save to give the appearance that representatives have some role.
The National Transport Authority is a relatively recent manifestation and one must assume its job was to decide policy not only around the country, but also in Dublin. If it is termed the "National Transport Authority" then that is what it should represent. Why then are we setting up a transportation council in Dublin operating within a national authority? What possible powers can it have if they are already vested in the National Transportation Authority? In short, what we have here is a dog's dinner, a sop to local representatives, giving the impression that they will have some role when power, responsibility and authority will lie elsewhere as always.
The legislation also proposed the establishment of a new regional development board. This would represent another talking shop replicating the four local development boards. If we must have a regional development board then the least we can expect is the elimination of the existing four development boards. Ultimately these are toothless bodies and are simply set up to enable countless, and in many cases useless or redundant, bureaucracies to liaise with one another.
We need to completely revamp local government throughout the country. I would like to see a movement towards a single Dublin authority with real functions, powers and revenue as well as expenditure responsibilities. This legislation simply does not achieve what is required and is worse than no change because it is so utterly cumbersome, complex and costly. Services to the people of Dublin will suffer under such a cumbersome and inefficient regime.
Far from streamlining service delivery, the Bill gives us a further accretion of bodies, layer upon layer, the result of which can only be to further stultify and paralyse decision-making. The tortuous attempt to seek a role for the mayor in a new regional authority and to superimpose the mayor on the current, already over-crowded network of bodies and inter-authority relationships, has produced the most arcane and cumbersome legislation I have seen in this House. The only result of this can be endless meetings, consultations, reviews, reports and busy work producing nothing of value. None of this can hide the fact that the office of mayor as proposed has no role, no power and no purpose.
There has been a certain amount of public debate in the media about the cost of the new body. I accept the Minister's point that it is impossible to know precisely the cost but what is certain is that it has a cost. One cannot set up a rake of bodies like this and, at least in theory, increase the remit of the local authority system and expect it to cost the same or less, as suggested by the Minister. My worry is not the direct cost but the indirect costs that will inevitably result from the loss of efficiency, focus and direction and the cost borne by the people of Dublin - the financial cost as well as the loss of services - that will inevitably result.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch spoke about the essence of local government reform, which is devolution. There is zero devolution in this Bill and if any power is allocated to the new mayor's office, it comes from the existing local authorities rather than central government. With a system as centralised as Ireland's, the only way to reform it is through further devolution. We do not get that in this Bill.
Having looked at the sections in this substantial Bill, one asks what will be different and better as a result. This body has no planning role, no housing role, no transport role, no waste policy role, no water policy role, no new role and no budget. All it has is a ceremonial role. God help the mayor who is hoping for a ceremonial role when competing with four mayors or cathaoirligh or whatever they will be called. There will be a dogfight to see who is king of the castle and I very much doubt the mayor without a budget will win. I do not question the motivation behind this legislation. I would love to see real reform of local authorities. I would love to see them having a strong voice. There is great potential in local government. The current system does not work. We need joined-up thinking and we need to bang heads together. I refer to bodies within local authorities and those providing services in Dublin over which local authorities have no control. In many cases such bodies see their autonomy as more important than the people they are serving. Local authorities have major potential to improve the quality of life for people. Dublin is the prime city and is the engine of growth for the country. What happens in Dublin matters not just to Dubliners but to the entire country. To get this right is desperately important. I plead with the Minister to take back this legislation. I do not question the motivation but let us get this right. Let us not make another dog's dinner of local authorities in Dublin.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill. This legislation provides for the introduction of a directly elected mayor of Dublin supported by a new, strengthened regional authority of Dublin. We will have a directly elected mayor of Dublin with executive functions by 2011 on the basis of a commitment in the programme for Government. In the Green Paper published in April 2008, Fianna Fáil suggested the needs of Dublin would be met with a directly elected mayor covering the four Dublin local authority areas - the Dublin region - and having a strategic role in areas such as regional planning, water services, waste management and housing.
I welcome this Bill because there are difficulties in local government. I could talk about County Galway as other Members have talked about the shortcomings in Dublin City and County Dublin. Many of the aspects of this Bill are technical in that they refer to the criteria for eligibility of candidates and other election matters. The legislation provides specific power to the mayor in respect of regional strategy and planning, transport and water and waste services. The Bill also deals with the establishment, powers and responsibilities of the regional authority of Dublin, which will be chaired by the mayor of Dublin. The regional authority of Dublin will replace the Dublin regional authority.
I was a member of Galway County Council for 17 years and I was glad to be a member of the Galway-Mayo regional development authority. As chairman of Galway County Council in 1985, I was vice-chairman of the body. We worked closely with our colleagues in Mayo to promote the best interests of the people in the two counties, particularly in the area of tourism. A regional organisation is a good idea. It is not the premier tier of local government. In its submission for the White Paper, Fianna Fáil said it believed in a three-tier system with the city or county council as the first tier, a sub-county structure and regional bodies. The regional authority is important in respect of the national spatial strategy. The county or city council is the tier with which most people are in contact.
The county council delivers services and in many cases raises finance. Local authorities are looking at new areas where they might raise finance. One should not forget the sub-county structure. The Fianna Fáil Party would like to see new town and district councils having important functions, particularly functions such as being a one-stop-shop for all local government services at local and county level. Some town councils have responsibility for housing and planning; others do not. They fulfil an important role in serving the people of those towns. We have proposed municipal councils in larger urban areas. That is another important issue.
We are dealing with the regional level in this debate. We have not had a strong regional government system in this country, which is sad. We need a coherent perspective on each region and a good approach to strategic planning in these areas. That we are not well-organised at regional level has not helped social or economic development. In this Bill the Minister is considering not only the mayor's position but that of the regional authority.
Some areas of responsibility can be added to those outlined by the Minister in the Bill, as provided for in the legislation. Roads, water services, planning and development and waste management are important for every county. I expect there would be a broad welcome in every part of the country for those issues to be considered on a regional basis.
Many speakers referred to water supplies. When the former Deputy, Mr. Gay Mitchell, MEP, was a Member he spoke frequently and warned about the danger of the shortage of water in Dublin. We had a great proposal to bring water from the Shannon to Dublin. People in rural areas might have a say about what will happen in that regard in the future.
Dublin is our capital city and it has great potential for growth. What happens there has an impact on the people of the city and the country as a whole. Areas are mutually dependent. In the information I received from the Library & Research Service there is a reference to the fact that the mayor may transfer a function such as water supply from one local authority to another. The Bill also gives power to the mayor to transfer property from one local authority to another. Issues arise in regard to water. Water supply has been a problem and has inhibited development of the national spatial strategy. The Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, is aware of the many issues I have raised with him on water, waste water and how one provides for it.
A similar situation arises in terms of waste management. I understood there would be co-operation between local authorities on the matter. I am disappointed that in some cases where a landfill is provided in one part of a county the proposals on thermal treatment have never gone ahead. That has been a problem. Galway City Council has made very little attempt to provide thermal treatment. It is disappointing that landfill is the only proposal that is considered.
Another important consideration in terms of regional authorities and regional development is the need to have a gateway city as part of the region. Dublin has that, as does the Galway region in the west. If there is a successful conclusion to the Bill other cities both in this country and abroad would be keen to have a directly elected mayor. We have had much discussion about the situation in London. The mayoralty of London has been given much publicity principally because of the colourful people in the office. They are competent people too. The London mayoral elections resulted in much publicity. That has been one of the hallmarks of the mayoralty in London.
I welcome the accountability element of the Bill, which is important. However, I did not find the financing arrangements to be clearly set out. I referred previously to the fact that the county or city council would be the premier tier of local government. They are the bodies that collect money such as rates or other proposed forms of funding, for example, the plastic bag tax, other levies and perhaps a water charge based on metered usage. All those options are open to city or county councils. We will have further debate on the question of how a regional authority would be funded.
I welcome in particular the fact that economic development of the city would be an important part of the focus of a mayor. That is very much the case in London. County enterprise boards exist in most counties. They have done much good work in helping small and medium businesses. I hope they will be allowed to continue their work. They have worked closely with FÁS to try to help companies get funding and get started. I hope they will still be able to do that.
In one of the documents I received there was a reference to the population of Dublin in the four existing local authorities being 851,519 people. The statistic is based on the figures for the 2009 local election. A city with such a population is deserving of a mayor. The turnout in the poll was 49%, which is 419,599 people. Many cities throughout the world have made more progress because they have introduced local government reform and that they have a mayor driving forward policies on behalf of the city. A directly elected mayor raises the profile of a city. That is very much the case with London and all the other cities to which the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, referred.
New measures are to be introduced in the Bill. A section deals with additional functions. When Members of the House or Ministers come up with ideas they should also provide funding proposals. Local authority members have often complained to me of their concern in that regard. I hope discussion will take place between the Minister, his departmental officials and the various local authorities because they have a major role to play. Local authorities have the prime responsibility. Regional authorities would need to know what their role would be.
I am disappointed that only two sections deal with housing. In the context of the housing we have provided in this country and the ghost estates it should be borne in mind that there is a shortage of housing in many cities. For example, there is a long housing waiting list in Galway. I am sure the same is true of Dublin and other cities. We must be more proactive in terms of providing housing. The Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, has made proposals on long-term leasing. The rental accommodation scheme, RAS, scheme is very good. I hope local authorities will take up those schemes. We must do more in that regard.
Part 4 refers to transport which is an important area. Great progress has been made in Dublin. I refer to the success of the Dublin bike scheme, for example. I would like to see that replicated in other cities. Great progress has been made in terms of various projects such as the DART, Luas and now metro and I would like other towns and cities to develop such projects as well. We have managed to get bus lanes in many cities, which we did not think was possible. It is only a small step but it is welcome.
The Bill is a start. I am disappointed that people are saying it is not the right time. If Donogh O'Malley had listened to the pessimists who said it was not the right time for free education we would not have made progress. There is no point in making the argument that it is not the right time to have a directly elected mayor. It will raise the profile of Dublin. When the proposals are explained and improved on by the addition of other functions I hope there will be a general welcome for the Bill.
It has been said that opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work. This Bill represents one such a missed opportunity. Making the legislation relevant, ambitious and groundbreaking was and is possible, but that would have required the Minister to do his homework, ready the ground and be prepared to ruffle a few feathers along the way. Obviously, that option looked far too much like hard work and the Minister has chosen the easy option. He has taken a good and meritorious concept, that of a directly elected mayor of Dublin with real powers and a meaningful role, and managed to turn it into a farcical position, one with all the trappings of high office but none of the reforms that are so badly needed. According to Deputy Kitt, people have complained that this is not the right time. It is not simply a question of timing, as there is never a wrong time if a proposition is the right one, but the Minister's proposal on behalf of the Government is inadequate.
Let me be clear. This legislation presents us with significant opportunities. It is a sad day in the House when the expediency and strange political myopia of the Green Party and the Minister, Deputy Gormley, have prevented him from seeing and grasping these opportunities. Let us explore some of the opportunities for reform that have been missed by the Bill. There is an opportunity to give the mayor substantial powers to drive the Dublin region as an economic hub. There is an opportunity to make substantial savings by reforming and reducing the overburdened bureaucracy associated with local government, not just in Dublin but throughout the country. There is an opportunity to tackle the considerable funding deficit at local government level by introducing a sustainable and long-term funding mechanism, namely, rates, a word that no Minister wants to utter but about which someone will need to do something. There is an opportunity to take action to salvage the much maligned business sector inside and outside Dublin, which is being crucified by local charges and commercial rates. There is an opportunity to provide for substantial powers and full accountability in respect of elected representatives at local government level. There is an opportunity to eliminate powerless and wasteful local councils and to replace them with proper devolved regional assemblies, ones with powers on the scale of Stormont's in the North. This is the type of serious reform that we need, but which the Minister has failed to recognise in this paltry legislation.
I am a supporter of the concept of a directly elected mayor. A mayor of Dublin elected by the people for the people represents a significant opportunity to transform the fortunes of the capital city. It offers us a chance to showcase and drive the economic hub of this country, namely, Dublin. With almost a third of the country's population and more than half of the country's GDP centred in the region, it is imperative that we fuel it as the country's economic engine. Not since the foundation of the State has Ireland needed leadership and political drive so badly. The introduction of direct democracy with direct accountability to the people should offer us a chance to develop a credible economic recovery plan for Dublin and, consequently, the entire country. A mayor who is directly accountable to the people could and should prove to be the driving force that the city and the country badly need.
So-called democracy at a local level is a complete farce. One could say that democracy at the national level is also a farce, but perhaps we will not deviate in that direction this evening. Local government in the Dublin region and the rest of the country is deliberately weak, ill-defined and rife with duplication. Dublin has four local authorities, as well recounted by my colleagues on this side of the House. Between them, Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council employ approximately 10,000 staff and command a budget of approximately €2.5 billion. Each of these councils is directed by a city or county manager, the people in whom all executive powers are vested. There is no shortage of bureaucrats running the city and the region, but to whom or even whether they are accountable is questionable. Sadly, this legislation will not change that situation one jot.
Accountability should be the critical appeal of a directly elected mayor of Dublin. A candidate for the mayoralty would need to set out his or her stall and energise us with ambitious proposals and goals for the city and with plans for regional development. Candidates would be assessed on their capacity not only to project good ideas, but to deliver for the city. They would be judged on their implementation of their policies and agendas, which should be an incentive to deliver results. Unfortunately, the absence of real mayoral powers, the fact that it will be another layer duplicating four existing mayors and given that the mayor will have no revenue-raising or tax-and-spend powers will undermine the objective and make it a nonsense.
It is unbelievable that the introduction of legislation to elect a mayor of Dublin ignores the dire need to reform local government. Ireland has too many local authorities and local councillors. Power is too concentrated in central government and unelected and unaccountable officials. Any attempt to bring direct democracy to the Dublin region cannot and will not work unless it is done in conjunction with a serious effort to reform and overhaul the entire system. People have no appetite for more layers of bureaucracy. They do not want to hear about the further wasting of public moneys or about ceremonial and honorary positions. They want real and meaningful roles, delivery and results. The creation of the new office of the mayor, together with the elimination of duplication at local and regional level, could transform the city, but we know that this is not what is being proposed. This is simply yet another layer of bureaucracy. There is no proposal to streamline, to reform or to eliminate waste. The Bill actually does the opposite.
The Government should abolish the four existing Dublin local authorities. I was proud to serve as a member of Dublin City Council but, if we are serious about making government work, we must acknowledge the need to get rid of small local authorities, to reduce the number of councillors and to make regional governance work, not simply on the basis of false artificial boundaries for the purpose of drawing down EU funding, but to deliver for the people and to serve their needs. How is it that Dublin, with its total population of more than 1 million people, has four councils and 130 councillors?
In contrast, the city of New York has a population of 8.3 million and 52 city councillors. They manage to work with a much less burdened bureaucracy and many fewer elected representatives but they do their job properly and efficiently, and it works. That is the model to which we should aspire.