New chamber for extra councillors

A new chamber is to be built for councillors in a Dublin local authority because the current chamber is not big enough to accommodate extra members to be elected under new local government reforms.

The chamber of Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council will not have the capacity for its new elected membership after next year’s local elections, which is expected to see the number of councillors rise from 28 to 40. As a result, plans are already in train to build a new chamber at a cost of at least €800,000.

“Our existing council chamber cannot accommodate an additional 12 councillors in its current format,” read a statement from the council. “It is also not possible to extend the existing chamber due to a lack of available space, restricted access (including disabled access) and the fact that the town hall itself is a protected structure.”

The reforms, which were announced by Phil Hogan, the local government minister, last October will also require major renovations to the chambers of Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council, both of which are earmarked for an increased number of councillors at next year’s local elections.

Cork County Council and South Dublin County Council have the capacity to accommodate the new complement.

A spokeswoman for Cork City Council said its membership number will increase for the local elections.

A number of serving councillors in Dublin have been highly critical of the plans to increase the complement of representatives in the greater Dublin area at a time when the number of councillors state-wide is being cut from 1,450 to 950. In total, the number of councillors in the four Dublin local authority areas will rise from 130 to 183.

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown councillor Gerry Horkan has estimated the cost of the 12 new councillors in his local authority at nearly €700,000 in one year, apart from the cost of the new chamber.

In Dublin City Council, Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe has stated that the cost to the council of its new members will be €1m.

In a submission to the local area boundary committee, McAuliffe has suggested that it represented “jobs for the boys” in the government parties. “I understand that this proposal was demanded by the Labour Party in a deal thrashed out between the coalition parties. Dublin does not need more councillors. It’s not what people want and it’s not good for local government.”

Meanwhile, Cork County Council is the only other local authority whose representation is definitely increasing, with the number of councillors rising from 48 to 55 to compensate for the abolition in the county of 12 town councils.

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