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‘Pulling down shutters’ on Councils

Regarding the Government’s proposed abolition of all of the country’s town councils, I believe abolition is no substitute for reform. The Putting People First document is in fact putting people last and is a move away from the present model of local government to a centralised system.

Of course reform is needed and population centres such as Bandon, Bantry, Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Dunmanway and Blarney should have had their own town councils may years ago. If we are serious about a bottom-up approach to local government, then going down the road to eliminating town councils is certainly not the way forward. We need to strengthen the structures of rural Ireland and not diminish them entirely. Where do the principles of the European Charter for Local Self Government, ratified by Ireland in 2002, stand in all of this? This charter specifically mentions town councils.

If we look at the record of service to the community down through the decades, as demonstrated by successive town councils, such as Clonakilty, we will find a model of an effective and efficient local forum administered by local public representatives whose overriding considerations were always for the greater good of the community and a pride of place.

Any proposed reform of town councils should include extending the existing town council boundaries, reducing the amount of grant aid to town councils by County Hall by returning to the councils some of the revenue raised in the Local Property Tax. Local services being funded by local taxes. Councils should, under statute, operate within their agreed budgets.

The proposed Municipal District of West Cork stretching from Courtmacsherry to Dursey is neither practical nor viable. Before the proposed legislation is passed the minister should tell the business community of Clonakilty that pay parking will not be introduced after May 2014.

Tell the rate payers of Clonakilty that their interests will be better addressed by the new Municipal District of West Cork.

Tell all the voluntary groups such as Clonakilty Tidy Towns that their community work will be better recognised by the Municipal District.

Tell the community at large here in Clonakilty that they will be better off without a Town Mayor and that a figurehead is no longer required for the different civic occasions and to lead the community in times of crisis such as the great flood of Jun 28, 2012.

Tell the people of Clonakilty how much it costs to have a town council.

I am prepared to do the job as town councillor for no reward if I was consulted, but no consultation took place. How ironic is it that as we celebrate 400 years of our town charter this year in Clonakilty, we are pulling down the shutters on the most basic tier of local government?

Our Oireachtas members here in West Cork should demand reform and not abolition, of town councils.

Cllr John M Loughnan
Clonakilty Town Council
Co Cork


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