Dublin needs a ‘credible’ mayor

DUBLIN needs to elect a credible non-celebrity mayor to drive critical local authority reforms and to eliminate €170 million of waste in expenditure and work practices.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce president Peter Brennan will express this view to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, special guest at the Chamber’s AGM in Dublin later this evening.

Mr Brennan is looking for the Government to stop talking about its proposed new legislation for the Mayor’s office and to bring it in immediately, allowing for Dublin to elect a new Mayor by June of this year.

He also believes that effective local authority reform will require a manager with political experience, not some “random celebrity” mayor as proposed recently by Environment Minister John Gormley.

Dublin Chamber’s business members are seeking a reduction in their annual €650m rates bill. They want to merge certain services and to reduce hidden costs in the €2.5bn annual budget of Dublin’s four local authorities, which employ 10,000 people.

As Peter Brennan explains: “We want the Taoiseach to show his support for a Dublin mayor with wide-ranging powers and authority. This will redress the damage done to the planned office by proposals for celebrity candidates.

“Businesses pay some €650m, a full third of the day-to-day costs of the four Dublin local authorities by way of commercial rates – much more if waste, water and other charges are added. This is an unfair burden on businesses to subsidise local authority inefficiencies. This is no longer sustainable.

“The recommendations of the Local Authority Efficiency Review Group must identify and eliminate €170m of waste in expenditure and work practices in the delivery of programmes. Equally, we need fewer, but full-time, elected councillors to serve the needs of citizens and rate payers.

“There is scope to provide better services. For example, if you have 20 debt collection operations across the four local authorities, then you outsource it to one service. That is how you can achieve efficiencies.

“This is not about cutting jobs. The expanded mayor’s office may even require additional roles if run properly. In most other European countries, the mayor’s office has stronger powers, and the extra capital would probably mean extra jobs. This would require some restructuring, which is exactly what is happening everywhere else in the economy.”

Dublin Chamber estimates that a newly empowered mayor could merge functions and achieve a 10% saving across the four Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin local authorities. Such umbrella powers are expected to be covered by the mayoral legislation.

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