INCREASING the number of seats on Fingal County Council is merely a 'crazy solution' to help Fine Gael and Labour retain their seats in the 2014 Local Elections and survive a backlash from the voters, it has been claimed.
Fianna Fail councillor for the Swords ward Darragh Butler questioned the rationale behind the need for the jump the numbers from 24 to 40 in the local authority reforms announced last week and also how it would work operationally on an administrative level. 'If you were a sceptic, you would say that a lot of Fine Gael and Labour councillors are delighted because their chances of surviving at the next Local Elections have greatly increased,' Cllr Butler said. 'Labour did very well in the last Local Elections in 2009, claiming nine of the 24 seats in Fingal and they would have been expected to lose most of these next time around.
'If you were sceptical, you would have to say this will save Labour in Fingal and Dublin. When Labour and Fine Gael were expecting to lose their seats, it can be expected to save their seats.' ' This is certainly a solution. I think in the current economic climate, it is hard to justify the increase.' Cllr Butler said. He expressed surprise that the number of councillors would be increasing to 40. He said that the Swords ward could end up as a seven or eight seater at the next Local Elections although it could be next March before the boundaries are decided.
'To me having seven or eight seat constituencies (as opposed to four and five) is simply designed to help councillors from the Government parties survive the backlash and retain their seats and that is simply not acceptable, especially in the current economic climate. 'I won't go as far as saying gerrymandering, but it is certainly a solution that suits the Government parties in Dublin and Fingal.
'I think members of the public would rather pay for extra council employees providing public services than pay for extra councillors. Cllr. Butler also questioned how it was going to work, citing how difficult it was to conduct council business with the 24 councillors. 'I think it's a crazy decision – Fingal does not need 40 councillors. It would be extremely hard to justify financially in the current economic climate and operationally meetings are hard enough to complete as is with 24 councillors, let alone 40.