The Local Government Reform Bill will abolish town councils, destroy local democracy and centralise powers away from communities according to the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI), the representative body of town councils.
“The outcome of the Seanad referendum is proof that simply slashing democratic representation will not cut it with the people of Ireland. Genuine reform at all levels of our democracy needs to happen but it must not occur at the expense of democratic institutions that are best placed to serve the local community,” the association said in a statement.
“Town councils currently have the power to determine local charges, such as commercial rates or parking charges, and to then decide how these monies are spent within their towns, such as community groups, residents associations and sporting groups. This power is now being taken away,’ according to Cllr Willie Callaghan, AMAI president.
The Bill provides for the abolition of the 80 town councils across Ireland, including nine in Tiperary, which will be replaced by municipal district councils (MDCs). These will be much larger entities, encompassing urban and rural areas. Town councils will lose their independent financial revenue raising powers. Instead, MDCs will now be handed down annual financial allocations, irrespective of the actual amount of monies raised within each MDC.
“The Minister has spoken at length about strengthening local democracy, but his actions, reflected in the proposals within this Bill, show no willingness to achieve this objective. The new MDCs have no financial autonomy meaning they will not be able to exercise their functions,” he said.
“The growing disconnect between local communities and the political system will grow as a result of this Bill. On October 4, the Irish people, during the Seanad referendum, made it clear to Government they do not support the abolition of political institutions, such as town councils. Instead, they demand real political reform. The Government by refusing to heed the call for political reform continues to ignore the will of the people,” said Cllr Callaghan.
Following the defeat of the referendum, the AMAI wrote to Minister Hogan and the Constitutional Convention demanding this legislation be postponed to allow time for local government reform to be fully considered by the Convention and reform proposals developed.
“The Minister has yet to respond to our request. We in the AMAI want real reform. We want local government to work better and deliver for all citizens. We urge the Minister to accede to our request. Political reform is a one-in-a-generation opportunity which must not be wasted,” he said.