It’s time to deliver, councils warned

LOCAL government has about 10 years to prove itself or face abolition and replacement, delegates at a national conference were warned yesterday.

Councils and corporations must serve the public in a more efficient, open and transparent manner, a local authority boss stressed.

“It is now up to the members and staffs of local authorities right around the country to co-operate and show they can deliver to their local communities in an effective and efficient manner. Members have a key role to play in ensuring their local authorities survive,” Local Authority Members Association chairman Michael Lawlor said yesterday. The image of local representatives has been dented by tribunal revelations in Dublin Castle, he admitted at the Carlow conference.

“The revelations have had a demoralising impact on our members. But we have to stress 99.99% of locally elected representatives do an excellent job and they are not interested in personal gain.

“If they put half the effort into private enterprise that they put into their public duty, they would be a lot better off. We would encourage locally elected representatives to defend the profession and one another.”

Local authority members work extremely hard, said Mr Lawlor. Yet their benefits fall short of those of other elected representatives. Local authority chairpersons were urged to keep a detailed track of their expenses, given that half of the chairperson’s allowance was now liable for tax.

“We know we have to operate within the law and have no objection to this. But the reality is that many chairs incur such expense, they may not be liable for tax.”

The Authority also wants a standardised allowance for chairpersons, based on 1,015 per member. If there are 20 members of a local authority, then the rate would be 21,500 for the year.

It also wants the same pension gratuities as members of the Oireachtas for its members, ensuring councillors are not just hanging on to maximise their entitlements or that councillors who served prior to 2000 are not penalised.

Mr Lawlor also said public private partnerships and road tolls were here to stay.

And he said the Authority was in favour of the scrapping of the dual mandate.

“The dual mandate restricts the time we can hold council meetings. They have to be held on a Monday or a Friday. Local authority have to hold many meetings about various issues and so much has to be read and prepared that it’s impossible to juggle both.”

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