Sinn Féin calls for democratisation and empowerment of local government
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's Local Government manifesto the party's spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. slammed the Government's continued stripping of powers from local authorities and called for the democratisation and empowerment of Local Government.
Deputy Morgan said
"At the time of the last local elections in 1999 there were high hopes for the transformation of local government. There was an expectation that the constitutional amendment passed in 1999 which enshrined recognition of local government in the 1937 Constitution would mark the commencement of a process of reforming local government. The opposite has in fact been the case as the Fianna Fáil-PD coalition has stripped responsibilities from local authorities and implemented a policy of centralisation of power. Increasingly unelected city and county managers wield more power than local authority members who are elected by the people. This is both undemocratic and unacceptable.
"Sinn Féin is committed to maximising local democracy. We have consistently opposed legislation which the Government has introduced to diminish the powers of Local Government. We have repeatedly called for the reform of local Government to create an empowered, democratic and accountable system of local government. In our Local Election manifesto we outline our proposals for increased powers and responsibilities to be given to local authorities including control over education, employment, environment, health, housing and social services.
"We need a system of local Government which is responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. Empowered, effective efficient and democratic local government is the best possible way to achieve this.
"The Coalition Government announced a major independent review of local Government funding on the 14th February 2003, the findings of which are long overdue for publication. It is clearly not a government priority. Local Government remains chronically underfunded. This under funding has resulted in local authorities introducing inequitable service charges and excessive development levies while at the same time they do not have the funding to build social housing, to meet demands for disabled person housing grants or for the provision of other essential services and amenities. The real hardship felt throughout the State by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged because of the gross undefunding of Local Government is ignored by the Coalition and indeed the media.
"Sinn Féin is calling for progressive increases in the proportion of Government spending on Local Government to reach a target of 20% by 2009 in tandem with the devolution of powers and functions. We are also calling for a full review of the taxation system including the examination of the options for local government to be given equitable finance and taxation raising powers" ENDS