Calls for government to flesh out details on powers of directly-elected mayors

Calls for government to flesh out details on powers of directly-elected mayors

Supporters of directly-elected mayors for Cork, Limerick and Waterford have called on the government to flesh out their vision for the office.

The Cork Mayoral Campaign welcomed Cabinet approval of the proposed powers for the office but said it was disappointed that the only specifics seemed to be in relation to the near €130,000 annual salary.

“We need more details about what we will be voting for on May 24,” said Oliver Moran, spokesman for the cross-party campaign.

“Local election candidates are knocking on doors now and we are being asked questions about this proposal and we can’t answer the questions. People need answers now," he said.

Dr Aodh Quinlivan, the director of the Centre for Local and Regional Governance at University College Cork, also welcomed the initial detail: “It’s coming a little bit late in the day but it’s better late than never,” he said.

We need more details though. The salary got the headlines but I don’t see that as a big a deal when you consider the job will combine the political head of a local authority with major executive functions - it is a serious job, with a large staff and a large budget.

He said it was important the Minister of State for Local Government, John Paul Phelan, follow through on his pledge to hold town hall-style meetings before the plebiscite and repeated concerns the creation of a directly elected mayor as a standalone reform will not achieve much without wider local government reform.

Plebiscites on the issue will take place in the three cities on May 24, the same day as the local and European elections.

In Dublin, the proposal is being put to a citizens’ assembly. If approved, it’s hoped the first mayors could be elected in 2022.

The new mayors would replace council chief executives in preparing policies in housing, planning and roads, and replace the current council head as the person responsible for ensuring all decisions of the elected council are lawful.

Chief executives, however, will retain powers to allocate social housing, grant licences or permits, and to deal with enforcement matters such as planning.

Mayors will serve a five-year term and be restricted to a maximum of two terms, but the initial term will be for two-and-a-half years to allow for transfers of power.

The council would have oversight of the mayor’s performance and would also have the power, in certain circumstances, to remove the mayor from the role.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Cork mayor would be the “most powerful politician outside Cabinet”.

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