Written answers

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Local Government Reform

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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162. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government further to the Government decision to shut down town councils and centralise local government within county council structures, the way the Government proposes to implement the decision; his plans for the buildings currently housing the local council offices; what will happen to all the workers employed within them; the measures being put in place for local authorities to take over this work; the amount of money that has been spent to date on preparatory works for this move, for example in County Kerry; the amount of money that has been given to Kerry County Council to help it take over the working of Killarney, Listowel and Tralee Town Councils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47626/13]

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Action Programme for Effective Local Government sets out Government policy in relation to a range of local government reform measures, including the establishment of a new comprehensive model of municipal governance to strengthen local government within counties and address weaknesses and anomalies in the current system. 

The Local Government Bill 2013 , published on 17 October 2013 and currently at Second Stage in the Dail , provides the legislative basis for many of the reforms set out in the Action Programme.

The Bill, as drafted, provides for the replacement of town councils by municipal districts, which, unlike the existing town councils, will be representative of all communities – urban and rural. The new governance arrangements will ensure that county council decision-making is brought closer to the local communities, without duplicate administrative or organisational overheads. In addition, as elected members will be elected for the municipal district in the first instance, this new structure will effectively eliminate duplicate representation.

Implementation of the reorganisation process is primarily a matter for each local authority . Advisory arrangements, involving a broad range of local government stakeholders, were established in December 2012 following the launch of the Action Programme with a view to informing, supporting and guiding the process of reform in local government structures and functions. As part of this process, a guidance framework has been provided to assist local authorities in the implementation of the reform programme in a timely and consistent manner. However, specific decisions on organisational issues, including the utilisation of their assets e.g. civic offices and the deployment of staff, arising from the implementation of the reforms remain a matter for individual local authorities having regard to local circumstances.

The Local Government Bill 2013 provides for the seamless transfer of functions from the local authorities that are to be dissolved to their successors, and as such the full range of local authority functions and services will continue to be delivered across each local authority area following the enactment of the legislation.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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163. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government under the new Local Government Act it is proposed that the chairpersons of municipal authorities would not be able to use the title of mayor, if an amendment will be made and if he will consider allowing the chairperson of each municipal district to also assume the title of mayor of the major town, that in the past had a mayor of that town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47630/13]

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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164. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the proposal that mayors of counties would no longer have the title of mayor and they would revert to being the chairperson or the cathaoirleach of the local authority, at a time when stronger relationships with other parts of Europe should be forged, his views on whether it is a retrograde step to lose the title of mayor and revert to the title of chairperson; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47631/13]

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

The Local Government Bill 2013 provides that mayoral titles may be used, as an alternative to the title Cathaoirleach, in certain instances, including in respect of Limerick City and County, Waterford City and County, and certain municipal districts. I am satisfied that the provisions of the Bill in this regard reflect appropriately the status and relevant application of the  mayoral title and have no implications for relationships with other parts of Europe.

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