Council reform ‘would remove financial autonomy of towns’

Local authority members call for new ‘districts’ to have power to vary rates

Cllr Patricia McCarthy of Clare County and Shannon Town Councils said it was demeaning to refer to “districts”, and said the term should be “district councils”. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Cllr Patricia McCarthy of Clare County and Shannon Town Councils said it was demeaning to refer to “districts”, and said the term should be “district councils”. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 19:46

Members of local authorities have proposed a range of amendments to legislation which will see town councils abolished next year.

Under planned local government reform, existing town councils will be abolished, with about 500 fewer councillors after the local elections in 2014.

In place of the town councils there are to be new “districts”, with county councillors representing the districts’ interests at county council level.

However, representatives of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) have proposed the new districts be renamed as “district councils” with oversight of rate collection and power to set variations in Local Property Tax.

Members of a second association of councillors, the Local Authority Members Association (Lama), proposed that outgoing councillors qualify for social welfare payments. Lama, which organises seminars for its members, also proposed it continues to receive funding from local authorities.

Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Local Government reform, AMAI president Willie Callaghan said the inherent danger in the new legislation was that it would remove financial autonomy from towns.

Mr Callaghan, a member of Kildare County and Naas Town Councils, said he had recently led a delegation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, where concern was expressed at the potential impact of the reforms on local empowerment and local decision-making.

Cllr Patricia McCarthy of Clare County and Shannon Town Councils said it was demeaning to refer to “districts”, and said the term should be “district councils”.

Councillor Tommy Moylan of Nenagh Town and South Tipperary County Councils said councillors representing the new districts should be allowed to vary the commercial rate and Local Property Tax in their areas.

In response to a submission from the Local Authority Members Association, Senator Denis Landy said councillors should be allowed social welfare payments when their term of office ended. Mr Landy said councillors should be allowed “the same entitlements as any other employee should have”.