Demographic Deficit of local government

Amidst all the furore over ministerial salaries of late, it is easy to overlook the great and grave ‘democratic deficit’ that persists at the level of local authorities.

It remains very, very difficult for ‘ordinary citizens’ to take on the role of local office. Not so much getting elected, which is a challenge in itself financially and otherwise, but also the nature and demands of the position once one does make the cut.

County Council business is conducted as an entirely day-time exercise, meetings of committees and sub-committees can stretch into many hours and days each month, all during “9-5” slots. Very few employments will allow this flexibility to come and go as the council demands, yet the annual stipend remains around €15,000 a year. Allowances and expenses can vary but for most representatives the job barely hits minimum wage.

Áras Chill Dara
Áras Chill Dara, home of Kildare County Council

What all of this means is that certain occupations or the independently wealthy are disproportionately present in local office – the ordinary citizen must hold down a day job which is simply not compatible with conducting council business – particularly now in the modern era of commuting, with increasingly long hours and mortgages and childcare to boot.

And so for the most part, the demographic of local ‘representatives’ remains neither representative of the population or of the real world.

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