Coveney to hold talks on reducing size of some local electoral areas

Minister says he favours changing large 10-seat council areas to more compact ones

 Simon Coveney: said he believed cross-party consensus was necessary to achieve local electoral reform

Simon Coveney: said he believed cross-party consensus was necessary to achieve local electoral reform

 

Simon Coveney is to hold talks with other parties about reducing the size of some local electoral areas which currently return up to 10 councillors.

The Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central said he favoured abandoning the larger eight, nine and 10-seat districts which in some counties can extend for over 50 miles, and returning to a larger number of more geographically compact areas, with fewer councillors in each.

He said in some rural council constituencies the distances some councillors travel to meet and represent all their constituents can be close to 100 miles. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government said that was just too large a distance for proper representation.

“My preference would be to move away from large 10-seat electoral areas to smaller ones with fewer councillors in each area – I think that’s more conducive to better local public representation in terms of councillors knowing their communities and their needs.”

In 2012, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition published a policy document which recommended the replacement of 114 local authorities, including town councils, with 31 integrated authorities based on municipal districts. It also proposed a reduction of 500 in the number of councillors, with the total number of seats nationally set at a maximum of 950.

Council constituencies

The Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee published its report in 2013, and recommended a move to larger council constituencies with a minimum size of six seats and a maximum of 10 seats compared to a review in 2008 which set the minimum at four and the maximum at seven seats.

It resulted in the creation of 66 six-seat municipal districts, 23 seven-seat districts, 23 eight-seat districts, 13 nine-seat districts and six 10-seat districts, giving a total of 131 areas, which were to return 918 councillors.

The six 10-seat constituencies are located in Carlow, Cork county, Donegal, Louth, Sligo and Wexford, while Tipperary and Kildare each had three of the nine seaters, Kerry and Galway each had two nine-seaters, with the three remaining nine seaters located in Donegal, Dublin and Fingal.

So, for example, Tipperary is represented by 40 councillors – made up of a six-seat district (Carrick-on-Suir), seven-seater (Cashel–Tipperary) and three nine-seaters (Clonmel, Nenagh and Templemore–Thurles).

Cross-party consensus

Mr Coveney said he believed cross-party consensus was necessary to achieve local electoral reform, and he was anxious to hear from party leaders and councillors from all parties before establishing a Local Electoral Boundary Commission to examine the issue.

“I need to get some input from other parties, and I don’t think I am alone in my concern about the size of some of the rural local electoral areas – it’s very early stages but we will go through a consultation process before finalising any terms of reference.

“The plan is that we get the review started in the summer so that it is completed by this time next year, which will give councillors some 12 months to bed in and serve their constituents in the new local electoral areas before the next local elections in 2019.”