Town council abolition ‘borders on dictatorship’

The Government’s proposed abolition of town councils is bordering on dictatorship, according to the mayor of one town which could lose its local council.

Mayor of Clonakilty, solicitor Phil O’Regan, says the proposed abolition of town councils, including that of Clonakilty, is unconstitutional and in breach of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Ms O’Regan has warned that if the abolition proceeds it will have an adverse impact on every aspect of town life, from parking to business rates, street improvements, house-building and even the town’s Christmas lighting.

“I believe that the Local Government Bill, which is proposing the abolition of the town councils, is bordering on dictatorship,” said Ms O’Regan, who has put forward a lengthy motion on the issue to tomorrow night’s meeting of the Town Council.

She said she believes section two of the Local Government Bill 2013 gives “unprecedented power” to the Government to overturn anything it perceives as a “difficulty” in implementing its plan to abolish town councils.

Her motion calls on the minister for the environment, the Department of Environment and the Oireachtas to refer the issue of local government reform to the Constitutional Convention or to “an independent and representative new body” so that there can be “meaningful local government reform, devolving powers to the lowest levels of democracy in our community”.

Ms O’Regan has requested that the motion be sent to President Michael D Higgins; to the current mayor of every town council in the 26 counties; and to each member of Dáil and Seanad Éireann.

“I sincerely hope that the people of this area realise that the abolition of Clonakilty Town Council will mean that within a very short time we will have pay parking — Clonakilty and Midleton are the only two towns in Cork county which refused to introduce pay parking because they were concerned it would be detrimental to town centre business. Within a few years we’ll probably end up with significant hikes in business rates. We’ll have lost the capacity to do anything ourselves within the current area of Clonakilty Town Council — filling potholes or anything else.”

Over the years, she pointed out, the town council had been involved in works to improve the streetscape of Clonakilty. The past year alone had seen redevelopment of Astna and Emmet Squares, as well as the purchase of a house in Emmet Square for redevelopment into a museum of West Cork and Michael Collins.

“The town council is even rejuvenating a number of road junctions,” Ms O’Regan declared, adding that if it is abolished the town would not have a budget exclusive to itself. “There is no guarantee that the rates raised here will be spent in the town, as they are at the moment,” she said, adding that Clonakilty Town Council’s Housing Rejuvenation Programme used money raised through rates.

“Even the erection of the town Christmas lights are the responsibility of the Town Council, which has bought beautiful seasonal decorations over the years with money raised in the town itself,” said Ms O’Regan who pointed out that as recently as Nov 2011, Minister Phil Hogan promised to maintain and give extra powers to town councils.


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