Thursday 12 December 2019

The key powers wielded in local authority chambers

CITY and county councillors are elected every five years and have a range of powers, which are called 'reserve functions'.

They include adopting an annual budget – which sets out how much the local authority will spend on essential services including housing, roads maintenance and library services.

Their powers also include approving spending money on conferences and training they attend.

Councillors must approve any borrowing incurred by the council.

In addition, they also strike the rate imposed on the commercial sector for the delivery of services.

This is a key issue for businesses, as rates comprise one of the primary sources of funding.

The more money needed to run the council, the more businesses tend to pay in their annual rates bill.

Elected members must also make or vary the development plan, which includes zoning land for housing, industrial and commercial purposes.

They also establish areas as suitable for particular types of development, such as windfarms.


Permission for projects not allowed in a particular area under the development plan must also be approved by members.

This is known as a material contravention.

Councillors must also approve the sale of any council lands or property, and can decide to award individuals with a civic honour, for example making a person a Freeman.

In addition, they make, amend or revoke bylaws, which can include bans on public drinking or establishing car parking charges.

They also adopt house-building programmes and can establish a scheme of letting priorities for those awaiting council housing.

Most of the reserved functions are contained in the County Management Act 1940, and later versions, but additional powers have been granted under other legislation.

County managers' powers are called executive functions, and include responsibility for staffing, making and entering into contracts, fixing rents and deciding planning permission.

Irish Independent

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