Local politicians ‘left in dark’ over reform plans

An association representing more than 80 borough and town councils facing the axe has accepted abolition is a fait accompli.

Local politicians ‘left in dark’ over reform plans

But, as the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland convenes its annual conference today, it remains in the dark over Government plans for proposed new ‘municipal districts.’ A new bill, detailing likely reforms of what is seen as a fundamental tier of local democracy, has not yet been published by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

The incoming leader of the AMAI, Cllr John Meehan, said senior counsel has been engaged to examine the new bill, which was due to be published before the Dáil’s summer recess.

“We can’t progress any legal avenue until we see the details of the bill but it is very frustrating for elected members,” he said.

Not all town councils are rateable authorities, but Mr Meehan said the striking of the commercial rate by local councillors, could be a major blow to many businesses.

The Fine Gael councillor said his home town council, Ballyshannon, was not a rateable authority but the elected members have an input into the distribution of other local funding for community development and the arts. “For 400 years, under a charter, there has been a political presence in Ballyshannon where local councillors were on the ground and were able to have access to county councillors and Oireachtas members.

“The new municipal bodies must have teeth and proper funding must be allocated in the interests of local democracy.”

Three TDs, Barry Cowen (FF), Brian Stanley (SF) and Catherine Murphy (Ind) will today discuss the Government’s reform strategy ‘Putting People First’ at the AMAI conference in Inchydoney, Clonakilty, Co Cork.

Mr Hogan’s bill is expected to be published within a month. However, outgoing president of the AMAI, Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Willie Callaghan said hundreds of outgoing local councillors, along with many other likely candidates, remain in a political limbo.

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