Mayors: We’ll sue over axing of councils

The mayors and members of the country’s five borough councils have threatened to take legal action to oppose local government changes proposed by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

They have called for a reversal of the decision to abolish borough councils which have been in existence for up to 1,000 years.

The mayors are seeking an “urgent meeting” with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Mr Hogan to discuss the move which will see the abolition of the borough councils in Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford. The authorities will be absorbed into their local county councils.

“There has been no attempt to ensure that the councils continue as distinct councils for their own towns and cities,” the five mayors said in a statement.

All but one — independent Billy Shoer from Clonmel — represent government parties. Mayor of Kilkenny Seán Ó hArgáin and mayor of Drogheda Paul Bell are both Labour councillors, while the mayors of Wexford and Sligo, Jim Allen and David Cawley, are in Fine Gael.

They have also backed a stance already taken by the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland “in considering a legal challenge to the reform proposals”.

Mr Shoer said yesterday the AMAI has mooted a legal action “and we would be supporting that position” if the Government doesn’t back down. “We feel strongly that the heart of local democracy is being taken away from local people and there’s no need for it at all.”

The mayors say that getting rid of local councils “flies in the face of the practice of the majority of EU member states where town and local councils are at the heart of local democracy”.

They also stated that Ireland has the lowest number of elected councillors and councils in the EU per head of population.

“Of particular concern is the ring-fencing of funds collected in the towns and cities to ensure that funds raised in the urban area are spent locally,” they said, questioning the wisdom of abolishing the councils “at the very time when councils have secured financial resources through the forthcoming local property taxes”.

They also argued that borough councils provided “excellent value for money”.

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