Serious gaps in local democracy

 

Sir, – Cllr Anne Colgan’s letter “Why we need to protect Local Government” (December 2nd) outlines very well the serious gaps in our local democracy. Having worked on the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels (EU Assembly of Local & Regional Government) over two decades, I can compare the huge difference in our democracy below the level of central government which is already very weak and is continuously weakening.

Since the lifting of the dual mandate in 2000 (TDs could no longer be councillors), powers have been taken away from local government in health, water, traffic, spatial planning, port & docks and tourism; along with continuous departmental interference in house building programmes, which slows up our building of badly needed homes.

All of these services are now run by public servants without any democratic policy input or oversight. In the rest of the EU education administration is managed at local and regional level which allows for planning of services in consultation with the community.

We continuously ask our TDs to amend legislation that would give us more powers in relation to noise and planning enforcement which would help us run the city more effectively, but for the past 20 years they are too busy to put amendments to appropriate legislation.

In the rest of the EU it is recognised that decisions should be made “closest to the citizen”. It is significant to compare the current state of many of our towns and villages to the vibrancy of their equivalent in other EU countries. The difference is that they have strong local government and are in control of their local areas. Central government is systematically eroding local democracy which is the closest point to the citizen, and all of this 100 years after our first Dáil. – Yours, etc,

MARY FREEHILL,

Labour Councillor,

Dublin 6.