A campaign challenging the reform of local government which resulted in the abolition of South Tipperary County Council, Clonmel Borough Council and town councils in Tipperary, Cashel and Carrick-on-Suir, and closure of public offices, is to be renewed.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath is stepping up his support of a constitutional challenge to the local government reform introduced by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan, following remarks made by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin at the Labour party conference over the weekend.
Deputy McGrath expressed surprise at Minister Howlin’s statement who told the conference that the abolition of councils was a mistake and he would like to see the reform that was implemented after the last local elections reversed.
Deputy McGrath said he had tabled parliamentary questions to Minister Howlin on the issue but the information requested had not been forthcoming. He hoped now in the wake of Minister Howlin’s comments that the matter would be revisited.
“I will be renewing my campaign against this local government reform. It was crazy from day one” said Deputy McGrath who said a constitutional challenge to the reform in the High Court had stalled because of the failure of the government to provide information that was requested.
Deputy McGrath said he was against the amalgamation of South and North Tipperary County Councils and the loss of all of the town councils. He said Tipperary was one of the biggest losers in the reform of local government that took place.
Calls for the town councils to be reinstated was also supported by Cllr. Denis Leahy, the only one of the nine member Town Council in Tipperary Town to survive the last local elections and who now represents his town sitting on the Cashel/Tipperary Municipal authority.
Cllr. Leahy said the abolition of Tipperary town council was a mistake and the fiasco concerning a plan to locate a bottle bank in the town highlighted the loss of local democracy in the town.
Cllr Leahy, said the botched bottle bank plan exposed the lunacy of doing away with the old council.
The Tipperary councillor this week backed up the calls from Minister Howlin to reverse the large scale abolition of councils under the watch of former Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
Cllr. Leahy said Tipperary Town was one of the biggest losers in the local authority reform.
“We had nine members representing the town, we had our own new civic offices and dedicated staff. Now we are in with Cashel and where Tipperary town had previously nine members on the council, I am the only one left from that group,” said Cllr.Leahy.
He cited the controversy surrounding a proposed new bottle bank at Bank Place in Tipperary town as an example of how that reform had left the town in a democratic vacuum.
“This would not have happened under the old council. There would have been consultation, there would have been a debate at council level before any plan was forced through. We lost local democracy as a result of this reform and this bottle bank fiasco proves it,” said Cllr. Leahy.
“The Cashel/Tipperary Municipal Authority does not bear any resemblance to the Tipperary Town Council that was and the town has lost out significantly as a result” he said.
The Independent member said the Tipperary Town Council elected local people to do a job and since the change in local government locals were not being consulted about what was going on.
“The walls for this bottle bank were erected in January and we were told at a Cashel/Tipperary Municipal meeting that the bottle bank was going ahead and that was that. It was a fait accompli. Absolutely no consultation took place, that is not the way a democracy works. Nobody could see the dangers involved, nobody could understand the objections until officials were forced to listen to people”.