Hogan points to local authority failings


MALPRACTICE PERPETRATED by local authority councillors has reinforced the need for local government reform, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has said.

Mr Hogan was speaking last night at the annual conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland in Ballinasloe, ahead of the announcement of the programme for local government reform, expected next week.

He told conference delegates, who represent town and city councillors, that his own experience as a councillor, TD and Minister had made him acutely aware of the “many deep-seated shortcomings” in the local government system.

The performance of elected members had on occasion “failed to inspire confidence”, he told councillors, particularly “instances of malpractice as, for example reported by the Mahon tribunal”.

There was also recent experience, he said, of elected members refusing to take their responsibilities seriously by opposing the collection of the household charge and so depriving their communities of funding.

Local government had been undermined and bypassed, and, despite many promises of reform over decades, its shortcomings had become more pronounced, he said.

Mr Hogan said he intended to halt and reverse the trend of decline by ensuring that local authorities take on key functions in economic local development. He would also devolve a wider range of functions from central agencies to local authorities, and strengthen the structures of local government, making them more effective, accountable and fit for purpose.

However, while Mr Hogan said an action programme would be considered by the Government shortly and an announcement on the reforms was “imminent”, he gave delegates no details of any plans to abolish their town councils.

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, last July, Mr Hogan said that it was “extremely likely” the number of local authorities and councillors would be cut.

Beyond telling councillors yesterday that the structures of local government had failed to keep up with the needs of communities and that there were overlapping and inefficient operating arrangements, Mr Hogan did not refer to any reductions in council numbers.

Councillors attending the conference this week said abolition was not reform, and they would not accept plans to disband their local authorities.