Fianna Fáil moves Bill to restore town councils

Party spokesman Shane Cassells says there is ‘gaping void’ in reacting to needs of people

Shane Cassells: he said the  abolition of town councils was a “butchery’’ of democracy

Shane Cassells: he said the abolition of town councils was a “butchery’’ of democracy

 

The abolition of town councils has left a “gaping void’’ in terms of reacting to people’s needs, Fianna Fáil local government spokesman Shane Cassells has told the Dáil.

He said there was neither public representatives nor dedicated sets of officials in place to give “vision and purpose’’ to those towns in the years ahead.

“There are no dedicated and ringfenced town council budgets which, in the cases of many large town councils or boroughs, would have been in the realms of tens of millions, no dedicated statutory town development plans which can give the vision for people as to how their town is going to grow.’’

Mr Cassells was moving his party’s Private Member’s Local Government (Establishment of Town Councils Commission) Bill 2017 to restore town councils which were abolished in 2013. The House will vote on the Bill on Thursday.

He said 80 town councils, which had served their communities extremely well over the course of 115 years, were wiped away at the stroke of a pen. It was, he said, a “butchery’’ of democracy, and the worst attack on Ireland’s local government systems in 100 years.

Mr Cassells said there was now no ability to retain the local property tax within the urban area for expenditure in those towns for taxpayers because there was no statutory council in place.

Businesses, he said, knew only too well the fallout from the abolition of town councils because instantly the commercial rates of small and large businesses in every town in Ireland started to rise.

Commercial rates

He said previously in nearly all cases the town commercial rates were lower than the county rate. Businesses suddenly had additional charges put upon them, and this would continue over the next decade as part of the equalisation of rates.

“So the business people keeping Ireland alive outside of Dublin city know only too well what abolishing town councils meant for them.’’

He said he was committed to see good local governance structures in place because he believed they delivered the on-the-ground services which people required.

He said his own town council in Navan, Co Meath, had delivered a €13 million theatre, a new swimming pool, a gymnasium, a 68-acre park, an enterprise zone and an enhanced town core.

“That multimillion euro investment was all achieved in the space of a decade, during which I was privileged to serve as mayor on two occasions, and at a time when the town council was recording annual surplus returns while in stark contrast our county council was mired in debt.’’

He said he took immense pride in walking down the streets of his town now, with his three young children, and knowing it had much better facilities than when he was a boy.

Mr Cassells said over the next 20 years towns were going to grow large, and the need to have dedicated budgets, development plans and representation for them would be all the more critical.