Dublin forum to weigh options for elected mayor post
More than 60% of survey respondents want directly elected mayor
Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn said it was vital the right structure for the new role was selected to control costs, ensure efficiencies and avoid duplication of roles and services. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
The capital’s city and county manager positions could be abolished and organisations such as Dublin Bus subsumed into a single transport company if a directly elected mayor was appointed, Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisín Quinn has said.
Mr Quinn is leading a forum of the four local authorities to draft proposals for Government on the creation of a directly elected mayor.
Speaking ahead of the first meeting of the forum tonight, he said it was vital the right structure for the new role was selected to control costs, ensure efficiencies and avoid duplication of roles and services.
Three main models are to be put before the forum for consideration. The first is a directly elected mayor with executive powers. Under this option the mayor would appoint a cabinet for a five-year contract, with control over each of the region’s main operation areas, such as transport, planning, housing or waste management.
“When the mayor goes, they go,” Mr Quinn said.
Under the second option, executive power would be shared with the council. The mayor still has a cabinet but appoints councillors to the cabinet positions. The council can then hold the mayor to account.
Option three would be a representative mayor. Similar to the current lord mayor, the new mayor would be ambassador for the city, the difference being that the mayor would hold a position for five years, from one local election to the next, instead of the current one year.
This would be the weakest of the three options, Mr Quinn said.
“There may be other options, and we will consider all reasonable options and they will be open to public debate, but I would lean towards options one or two.”
Of more than 1,200 people surveyed by the city council on their attitude to the new position, 61 per cent said they wanted a directly elected mayor, 25 per cent said they were not sure, and 14 per cent said they were against.
The cost of the office was cited by 40 per cent of those opposed while almost one-third said either the role would have no real power, or would be just an additional layer of bureaucracy.
The council’s survey, Your Dublin Your Voice, found that men, those with higher levels of education and pensioners were most in favour of having a directly elected mayor, with those living in the Dublin city local authority area more in favour of the position than those living in the Dublin county council areas.
Almost 70 per cent wanted the mayor to have control over transport, waste and environmental services, with slightly fewer choosing planning (64 per cent), housing ( 53 per cent), and policing and emergency services (47 per cent).
Almost 46 per cent said the mayor should govern the full county of Dublin, while 36 per cent said it should have power over Dublin city only.
Mr Quinn said options one or two offered the opportunity to achieve substantial cost savings and efficiencies.
“You can make the case for it costing less because currently you have multiplication of what’s going on. For starters, you wouldn’t have city and county managers, or separate managers for each service in each local authority.”
The budget for different services could be “pulled” from a number of sources, he said.
“The two big departments where funding could come from would be environment and local government, and tourism, transport and sport.”
There was also a case for siphoning some of the funding from Fáilte Ireland, he said.
“Of the €140 million Fáilte Ireland budget, they don’t reveal how much is spent on Dublin. Estimates are that it’s in the region of €25 million, but if the mayor had that money, imagine what could be delivered.”
Organisations with responsibility for some services in Dublin as part of their remit could relinquish that control and other organisations could be rationalised, particularly in the area of transport, he said.
“Instead of having four or five different companies vying for funds, you could have one Dublin metropolitan transport company with responsibilty for Dublin Bus, light rail and the Dart and commuter train services of Irish Rail, giving us one integrated system.”