Labour Party proposes return and expansion of town councils

Country ‘remains one of the most centralised states in Europe’, says enterprise spokesman

Policy proposals were advanced at the Labour Party’s think-in in Athy, Co Kildare.

Policy proposals were advanced at the Labour Party’s think-in in Athy, Co Kildare.

 

The return of town councils and a town planner for every town in the State are among the measures proposed by the Labour Party in a post-pandemic plan to revitalise local communities.

Revealing the proposals at the party’s think-in in Athy, Co Kildare, enterprise spokesman Aodhán Ó Riordáin called for a new deal for towns.

Ireland remains one of the most centralised states in Europe, with our local authorities having few powers and almost no real financial autonomy,” he said.

According to 2018 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, “only 8 per cent of Irish public spending occurs at local government level, compared to an EU average of over 23 per cent”.

He said: “Too much power is concentrated in central Government, and not enough with local councils to be the engine of economic and social development in Ireland.”

Mr Ó Ríordáin said it was not the case that every town and village was dying. “There are challenges but in certain towns such as Westport or Athy the population has increased hugely over the last 10 years but it has not been managed properly. We want to bring back and expand town councils because they were working much better than what they have been replaced with. The new system doesn’t work.”

Labour Senator and former town cllr Mark Wall said town councillors “were on the ground and saw exactly what was happening at that level. Town councils have been replaced by municipal districts that are just too big and are not working”.

He said there is “one small playground in Newbridge for a town of 23,000. It’s just not acceptable. This should be the work of town councils.”

He said that one of the biggest issues is the provision of a town planner. There is haphazard development and a town planner should be appointed to every district to ensure proper growth.

“The Government appears to want to urbanise more people and if they are going to go down that road then they have to ensure the challenges are met.”

Integration

Mr Wall, who is based in Athy, said there is a huge issue of integration. There were still people who leave the town at 6am and get back at 7pm and “they’re not integrating”.

He said the Government should fast-track integration through extra community facilities like parks, pitches and playgrounds that sports and other clubs are “crying out for”.The party conducted a survey with 1,000 people across the country and dereliction was one of the issues highlighted.

He said the 2008 recession and continued cuts from Government “has brought many of our main streets to their knees. We need to tackle the byproduct of this – derelict and vacant units – which have a hugely negative impact on the image, social cohesion and prosperity of our towns.”

The plan would redirect more power and resources to local government and restore town councils. This would provide more local jobs and opportunities for public servants to relocate outside of Dublin.