ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has accused local councillors of "failing to inspire confidence" by devoting too much time to minor issues instead of focusing on policy.
A major reform of the sector to be announced in the coming weeks will include more powers for councils to deliver local services, he said.
Speaking at the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) annual conference last night, Mr Hogan said while local government had many strengths, including committed staff and councillors who worked on behalf of their constituents, he was aware of "deep-seated shortcomings" in the system.
They included a lack of revenue-raising powers, structures which failed to keep up with the changing needs of communities and "inefficient" operating arrangements.
"There is also instances of malpractice as, for example, reported by the Mahon Tribunal, which reinforced the need to address such practices effectively and comprehensively," he said.
Mr Hogan said that the public often failed to see the relevance of local government because it was not involved in policing, education, transport and welfare, services provided by local authorities in other countries. Local government had been "undermined" over the years, he said, and the reforms would be the most fundamental since the early 1800s.