Labour bill seeks to restore town councils and reverse ‘mistake made’

Labour TD Willie Penrose. Picture: Laura Hutton/Collins

The Labour Party is seeking to restore town councils around the country, believing it was a “mistake” to scrap them in the last government.

Leader Brendan Howlin said his party’s bill would restore powers locally, including the setting of rates, and give designated areas more autonomy.

“In the challenging five years that we were in government, we certainly did make mistakes and one of them was the abolition of town councils,” said Mr Howlin.

“All towns around the country sorely miss that tier of immediate access to local democracy,” he added.

The party expects the bill will attract cross-party support in the Dáil and Seanad. The changes would return local governing for towns before the local elections next year. Powers for town councils would be restored, including the right to set local rates.

Towns with a population of 1,000 or more could have a nine-member council while any town larger than 25,000 would have 15 local elected representatives, under the plans.

Towns across Europe are served by similar councils, said Mr Howlin.

The Labour leader said Fianna Fáil’s proposals on the issue were only for a commission to look at restoring such local powers.

The last Fine Gael-Labour government abolished town councils, a reform which the latter party now deeply regrets.

The Government, however, is not keen to restore the councils.

A spokesman for Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said that there were no plans to reinstate councils and, instead, the reduction in the size of local electoral areas is planned, as recently recommended in a report.

Meanwhile, veteran stalwart Labour TD and former minister Willie Penrose has announced he will not contest the next general election.

After 26 years as a TD, the Longford-Westmeath TD says he is stepping aside to allow a younger, more tech-savvy politician to try his hand at winning a seat in the Dáil.

Alan Mangan was selected by Labour last night at its constituency selection convention in Longford-Westmeath.

Mr Penrose said he had been involved in politics for 35 years, including his time as a councillor.

“It’s a great honour and a great privilege,” he said.

It is something that I never underestimated, that the people of Longford and Westmeath were putting their trust in me and somebody who is committed to public service. I always did my best. I sometimes failed, but always tried.


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