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Councils face €1.4m bill in 'savings' plan

THREE Dublin councils are set to spend at least €1.4m refurbishing their chambers in a move that was designed to save money.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan last month announced a reform of the country's local government, which included the abolition of town councils, a reduction in the number of councillors, and the merging of councils in three counties.

But the move increases the number of councillors in the four Dublin local authorities, which means room has to be made for them in council chambers.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council is set to spend €800,000 on new chambers to accommodate 12 extra councillors.

Its challenge lies in finding the space for extra councillors in the offices in the town hall which dates back to 1874.

Fingal County Council expects to spend around €300,000 as it makes room for 12 extra local representatives in the Swords offices that were built 12 years ago at a cost of €23m. It told its members that the projected cost per additional seat in the chamber could be between €15,000 and €20,000.



South Dublin County Council estimates it will spend €200,000 for 16 extra councillors, with director of corporate services Philip Murphy saying the focus will be on causing as little disruption as possible.

"The point coming across from discussions with members is they don't want to do it on the cheap, but they do want value for money," he added.

Dublin City Council has yet to come up with a figure for accommodating an extra 11 candidates.

Mr Hogan's plans reduce the total number of councillors in the country from 1,627 to 949, and the number of councils from 114 to 31. This will come into effect after the next local elections to be held in May 2014.

Fine Gael TD for Wicklow Simon Harris said he would be raising the matter of the costs of the changes at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee this week.

"Chairs are not thrones. It is important councils are conscious of the significant hardships Irish families have gone through," he said.