Vote from 11/12/2013
The Local Government Reform Bill is a wide ranging piece of legislation and has been called the most fundamental reform of Local Government in over 100 years.
Many amendments were put down by the opposition and Government TDs and a full listing of the amendments can be found on Dailwatch.ie/blog
The Bill has been sent to the Upper House to be examined and will be ratified by the President in due course.
Local Government Reform Bill
The main provisions of the Bill set out the structural reform of local government.
The major structural reforms set out in the Bill will be the most radical and visible. The number of local authorities will reduce from 114 to 31 and the number of elected members will fall from 1,627 to 949.
There will also be:
An integrated system of municipal districts throughout each county, to replace the 80 town councils. The new municipal districts will be fully representative of the population as distinct from the town councils which had limited functional, territorial and operational scope;
The creation of new unified local authorities in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford as successors to the existing city and county councils;
New regional assemblies, with a more focussed role in spatial and economic planning, will be established to replace the current eight regional authorities and two assemblies; and
A single set of councillors for district and county levels, replacing the existing dual mandate for many Councillors. Councillors will also have wider functions at district level to ensure that the needs of their communities are fully represented and met.
Local Councils will be given a greater say in local enterprise and economic development and in local and community development activities. The reforms provide for the alignment of the local community development sector with local government through the establishment of Local Community Development Committees, which will be mandated to prepare Local Community Plans to bring strategic coordination to the millions of euro spent each year on local and community development initiatives. There will also be a new Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) for Economic Development in each Council to:
• Prepare local action plans to guide and foster economic activity and stimulate job creation within the area; and
• Provide the planning, oversight and accountability of the new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), which will replace the County Enterprise Boards.
The Bill also provides for a range of measures to support local democracy, to strengthen governance and ensure that there is greater accountability for the delivery of local services. In particular, the Bill provides for a rebalancing of responsibilities between the elected members and the Council executive, to further strengthen the decision-making powers of Councillors for the benefit of the communities and citizens they represent. Specific provisions are as follows:
The establishment of a new post of chief executive to replace the former city and county managers. The role of the chief executive will be more clearly defined to advise and support the elected Councillors in their policy making role and there will be enhanced management reporting arrangements to the Council.
The Bill also provides for greater involvement by the Council in guiding the appointment of the chief executive;
A standardised commercial rate across each county to be introduced over a period of 10 years. Also, the level of vacancy refund of rates will be standardised at a rate of 50% nationally in line with current practices in Dublin, Cork and Limerick cities;
Greater involvement in and oversight of local authority budgets by members. In particular municipal district members will have delegated powers to decide programmes of works to be carried out within their district;
A new National Oversight and Audit Commission for Local Government (NOAC) will be established to provide independent scrutiny of local government performance and in providing value for money for service delivery. NOAC reports will be made public and the Chief Executive will prepare an implementation plan to address any issues raised by the NOAC.
The Bill also provides for a plebiscite in 2014 to allow the people of Dublin to decide for themselves if an office of a directly elected mayor should be established for the greater Dublin area.