Environment Minister Phil Hogan
Environment Minister Phil Hogan
The bill to reform the local government system in Ireland was launched yesterday (Thursday) by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
The Local Government Bill 2013 will abolish 80 town councils, including Athlone Town Council, and will replace them with new 'municipal districts' in each of the affected areas.
Minister Hogan said the legislation would "fundamentally reform" the local government system in Ireland.
"This is the first time in over 100 years that we have attempted such a radical reform but it is necessary to bring our local government system up to date and to provide the kind of service our citizens deserve," he commented.
“The whole point of local government reform is to ensure that local councils deliver better services to their citizens. For too long local government has been by-passed by quangos. I want Councils to do more for citizens and local communities. But I accept that first local government must regain public trust.”
The bill will reduce the number of local authorities from 114 to 31 and the number of elected councillors from 1,627 to 949.
Eighty town councils will be replaced by a system of municipal districts.
At present, three Athlone Town councillors also sit on Westmeath County Council. This 'dual mandate' will end when the bill is implemented - there will be a single set of councillors for district and county levels.
New regional assemblies, "with a more focused role in spatial and economic planning" will replace the current eight regional authorities and two assemblies.
From 2015, councils are due to be given the authority to vary the rate of local property tax charged in their county.
The Minister said local councils would be also be given "a greater say in local enterprise and economic development and in local and community development activities."
The bill provides for the alignment of local community development groups with local government through the establishment of Local Community Development Committees.
The bill is also due to provide "for a range of measures to support local democracy, to strengthen governance and ensure that there is greater accountability for the delivery of local services. In particular... to provide for a rebalancing of responsibilities between the elected members and the council executive, to further strengthen the decision-making powers of councillors for the benefit of the communities and citizens they represent."
A new post of chief executive will replace the former city and county manager roles.
The role of the chief executive "will be more clearly defined to advise and support the elected councillors in their policy making role and there will be enhanced management reporting arrangements to the Council.
The provides "for greater involvement by the council in guiding the appointment of the chief executive."
A standardised commercial rate across each county is to be introduced over a period of 10 years. Also, "the level of vacancy refund of rates will be standardised at a rate of 50% nationally in line with current practices in Dublin, Cork and Limerick cities."
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