NEWS of the axing of Listowel Town Council was greeted with mixed feelings by Listowel people on Tuesday.
Councillors warn that the loss of the nine-person town council will hit ordinary Listowel people hard. However, there appears to be few tears for the town council among ordinary people on the streets, based on a quick survey of the local mood, carried out by The Kerryman on Tuesday.
Mayor of Listowel Tom Barry described the news as 'disappointing'. "I think it is going to impact on the lives of ordinary people in Listowel as they are no longer going to have any elected representatives at a town level,"
Kelly Browne of the Listowel Independent Traders' Association described it as a ' blow' for Listowel. "We will be very upset to see them go and we believe it will be a major blow for the town," she said.
"They have worked very well with us in recent times and it makes life much easier for everyone to be able to contact them quickly." AS part of the most far reaching reform of local government in Ireland since the foundation of the State, Tralee, Killarney and Listowel town councils are to be scrapped in two years.
The three councils are among 80 town councils across the State that are to be abolished as part of the government's plans for the reform of local government, which were announced on Monday.
While the abolition of some councils, including Listowel, and a reduction in the number of seats on others had been widely expected, the wholesale abolition of all town councils has been greeted with shock, anger and dismay by most town council members.
The cuts, which are due to be enacted by the 2014 local elections will see the 25 Kerry councillors who only sit on town councils losing their positions. This is likely to have a significant cost for the tax payer as, under current legislation, any councillor who loses their seat is entitled to a compensation payment.
Each of the various councils' functions will be taken over by Kerry County Council where new divisions will be set up to take over the functions of the dissolved councils.
Local authority managers are to be replaced by chief executives who will be responsible to the elected members in the same way as the chief executive of a company is to a board of directors.
Town councils will be replaced by new Municipal Districts, which will cover the entire county, being based on the main towns and their hinterlands. Councillors will be elected simultaneously to the Municipal Districts and the County Council.
The plan will also require a complete re-drawing of the local electoral areas in Kerry ahead of the next local elections when a small number of additional councillors, likely from the areas where there were previously town councils, will be elected to sit on Kerry County Council.
Under the terms of the plan, the new look county council would see one councillor elected for every 5,000 people in the county, which, in basic mathematical terms would mean the council expanding by two seats, from 27 to 29.
Management at Kerry County Council said they are studying the document carefully and are awaiting further detailed instructions from the Department of the Environment as to how exactly the reforms, especially funding implications and the amalgamation of various departments, should be implemented.
A council spokesman said the document will require a lot of thought before it can be implemented.
The reforms will also see the power of councillors to overturn the decisions of planning officials abolished. Section 140 of the Local Government Act will be removed so that councillors will no longer be allowed to direct officials in respect of planning functions. Most of the reforms are to be introduced in time for the 2014 local elections.
Services administered by local authorities will in future be funded through a new local property tax, the rate of which will eventually be decided by the individual local authorities.
The plan also sets out an enhanced role for local authorities in relation to economic development and enterprise support, with economic development plans to form part of city and council development plans and one-stop-shops for business support to be provided through new Local Enterprise Offices.