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Abolition of town and borough councils unmitigated disaster for local governance and accountability – Munster

28 June, 2017 - by Imelda Munster TD

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has called for the process to re-establish town councils, which were abolished under the Labour and Fine Gael coalition government in 2014, to be put in motion.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Munster spoke of the damage done to Drogheda since its council was abolished.

Deputy Munster said;

“The abolition of the town councils in 2014 was an unmitigated disaster for Drogheda. For all of the 80 towns that lost their town and borough councils. Drogheda is the largest town in Ireland.

“The Labour party and Fine Gael stripped Drogheda of its borough council status, town clerk, and all local authority departments bar one.

“The new system of municipal districts is proving to be ineffective. They are toothless tigers. They do not even have a budget. Drogheda, the largest town in the country, does not have its own separate budget.

“Instead, power lies with unelected officials. Some of whom have shown no enthusiasm, vision, foresight, forward planning or interest in tackling the crises we’re facing. This is the legacy of Labour and Fine Gael; the abolition of local democracy.

Deputy Munster also spoke of the financial aspect of the Act, saying that claims by the Minister for Environment of the day, Phil Hogan, had apparently not come to pass.

“What was the benefit of the abolition of the councils? It does not appear to have made much of a saving for the exchequer. The Department claimed in a statement prior to the introduction of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 that savings of €15 million to €20 million per year would be achieved through the abolition of town councils.

“I requested information in a parliamentary question on the annual savings achieved each year since the introduction of the Act. The Department refused to provide me with this information.

“I think it is high time that we re-established town councils. The Local Government (Establishment of Town Councils Commission) Bill 2017 proposes to form a commission to look at the matter.

“I propose that such a commission would examine a wider range of topics related to local governance, such as a thorough review the powers afforded to local authorities and their funding streams, and the obvious need to enhance and increase them both.

“Rather than merely assessing the need for town councils, it is important that a wider view is taken to ensure that local government structures are fit for purpose across the State. That is certainly not the case at present.”

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