'THE MOST fundamental overhaul of local government in more than 100 years.'
That's how the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan, pictured left, described the radical changes now on the way. Under the new plans, the number of councillors will be reduced by 42%, with councils reduced from 114 to 31. Savings of €420 million are anticipated. Under a totally new model of governance within counties, all 80 existing town authorities will be replaced by a system of municipal governance. Town and county governance is to be integrated.
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.
Local services are to be funded through a new local property tax.
At regional level, three new assemblies will replace the current 10 regional authorities and assemblies.
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 elected members.
Indeed, one of the fundamental aims of the reforms is to reaffirm the primacy of the elected members.
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.
The role and functions of the elected council are to be widened.
But power to overturn planning decisions will be reduced.
There will be an enhanced local authority role in relation to economic development and enterprise support:
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the reduction in the number of councillors, the merger of certain county councils, and the replacement of town councils with Municipal Districts was 'a necessary reform.'
He added that in order to bring local government into the 21st Century, the government was introducing, what he described as 'one of the most radical, ambitious and far-reaching governance reform plans ever put forward.'