First Impressions on Local Government Reforms

So Big Phil finally published his ‘opus magnus’ yesterday with all the detail on local government reforms including abolition of town councils, levelling of councillor ratios across the country and creation of much bigger wards in Dublin and the commuter belt.

Still trying to digest it all (it’s a big document!) but my first impressions are as follows:

  • The changes to standardise population to councillor ratio across the country are very welcome. Kildare will benefit from this – previously Kildare had far few representatives per population while much smaller counties had more.
  • The Town Council system had too many anomalies to continue as was; some towns had councils, others didn’t with little regard for population size –was all based on history. It was either expand or abolish. Though I am not convinced of the cost savings – I considered Town Councils fairly harmless but they did provide 9 dedicated representatives at low cost to each town and are now gone.
  • Moves to provide direct government funding/taxation are welcome and positive – but any new taxes must be progressive and based on ability to pay – not like the household charge etc. Essential that councils run the collection properly also again unlike the household charge.
  • More power for local government is welcome as is more accountability.
  • “Family friendly” measures are mentioned mainly targeted at women. Reform would be welcome for anyone who has to work outside the council; current structures mean majority makeup of councils are self-employed or retired people; very hard to combine involvement in politics with a regular PAYE job (which then limits the type of decision makers we elect).  See here for previous thoughts on this.
  • We will see changes all across Kildare – every council ward will gain councillors as the town councils will go. Will do some numbers on this but looks like Naas going to 8 or 9 seats (but Naas town council gone of course), Clane could double to 8 or 9, Celbridge already at 6 may grow to 7 (losing Maynooth to Clane area) and Kildare and Athy becoming 7 or 8 seaters also as Athy and Newbridge town councils are subsumed into the new structures.
  • References to Mahon and planning corruption are a bit self-serving; If Big Phil really wanted to tackle this he wouldn’t have cancelled the planning inquiries right around the country including his own back yard. But still, politics aside, it all appears to be a step in the right direction.

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