The Environment Minister has announced plans for the abolition of 83 local authorities - nearly all of them town councils - as part of plans to save 420 million euro.
The number of Councillors will also be slashed by 42 per cent - from over sixteen-hundred to nine-hundred-and-fifty.
500 local authority staff will also be made redundant in the next eighteen months.
Donegal's Town Councils are to be scrapped with extra powers given to, what is expected to be, a slightly larger County Council.
The full list of proposals are as follows:
“The most fundamental reorganisation of local government structures in over a 100 years will be undertaken over the next two years, the structural reforms alone will deliver €45 million in savings. Under a totally new model of governance within counties, all 80 existing town authorities will be replaced by a comprehensive system of municipal governance integrating town and county governance.”
Structures will be streamlined:
· There will be a reduction in the number of local authorities from 114 to 31 City and County Councils with integrated areas called ‘Municipal Districts’.
· Council seats will be reduced from 1,627 to no more than 950. The members elected at local level will also represent the district at county level.
· At regional level, 3 new assemblies will replace the current 10 regional authorities and assemblies.
· There will be a rebalancing of representation nationally and more equality of representation between local electoral areas within counties.
Funding, Accountability and Governance:
“Local Government does not enjoy universal confidence. Putting People First will address the weaknesses in the system and introduce new measures that will re-build public confidence and trust.”
Key measures include:
- Services administered by local authorities will be funded through the new local property tax, a move designed to strengthen local responsibility for decision-making by authorities.
- There will be a new Independent National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) to scrutinise local government performance and efficiency.
- Local authority Audit Committees will be put on a full regulatory footing and the Committee’s review of the Audit Report will be included in its report to the Council.
- While the powers of councillors will be strengthened, their powers to direct Managers in respect of planning and certain other matters will be curtailed.
- The position of local authority manager will be replaced by a Chief Executive Post. This is designed to reinforce the principle that the chief executive of a council should be accountable to the elected members in the discharge of all his/her functions, in the same way as a chief executive of a company reports to a board of directors.
- The two representative bodies of local Councillors will be merged after 2014.
- The structures and levels of all payments to councillors will be reviewed.
- The overall maximum expenditure in respect of attendance by councillors at conferences will be significantly reduced. To help improve the relevance of such conferences, attendance will be limited to conferences organised by the proposed new amalgamated councillor representative body, by a regional assembly, or by professional bodies (such as planning bodies) operating in the local government sector.
- The role and functions of the elected council are to be widened. One of the fundamental aims of this reform programme is to reaffirm the primacy of the elected members in the local government system and to examine the default provision which grants the executive power to act unless powers are specifically assigned to members. The local government sector will be covered by a single, comprehensive ethics framework to apply across the public service.
- To complement the steps taken by political parties to promote and assist women candidates, local authorities will make appropriate arrangements, including the timing of meetings, to ensure that the way they conduct their business encourages the greater participation of women in politics.
Economic Development and Job Creation:
“Putting People First empowers Local Government in an entirely new way, particularly in relation to economic development, and most importantly, sustaining and creating jobs. “
There will be an enhanced local authority role in relation to economic development and enterprise support:
· There will be new dedicated Strategic Policy Committee for Economic Development in each local authority.
· A new dedicated Director of Services for Economic and Community Development will be created in those local authorities with hubs and gateways.
· Economic development plans will form part of the City or County Development Plan.
· One-stop-shops for business support will be provided through new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)
· Greater effectiveness will also be achieved through a closer alignment of local and community development supports with the local government system.
· Local authorities will build on the 2,000 job initiatives already in train.
“Local Government has been ahead of most sectors in the changes it has made to reduce costs and drive efficiency, with €830 million savings made since 2008. This will continue to be pursued vigorously to achieve the highest standards of customer service and I have set a further target of €150 million over the next 18 months. The reform programme will yield significant savings on full implementation of up to €420 million.”
· The Programme will see new measures to monitor the performance of local authorities, with emphasis on targets, customer service and value-for-money.
- Service plans will be approved by elected members in each authority.
- New robust systems of performance monitoring, including scrutiny by the National Oversight Audit Commission will focus on key indicators, value for money, comparative performance of local authorities, and outcomes rather than outputs.
- A publicly accessible website, fixyourstreet.ie, will be rolled out to every local authority area to enable citizens to report road, lighting, environmental and other issues requiring local authority response and secure a response within two working days.
- To improve the relationship between the authority and the Community they serve, each County and City Council will be required to have a dedicated, suitably trained Customer Services Officer.