Council's fury at threat to housing function

The elected members of a South Tipperary local authority have vowed to oppose the Government's plans to remove the housing functions from town councils as part of radical new rationalisation reforms.

The elected members of a South Tipperary local authority have vowed to oppose the Government's plans to remove the housing functions from town councils as part of radical new rationalisation reforms.

Carrick-on-Suir Town Council unanimously agreed at their January meeting on Monday night to write to Housing Minister Michael Finneran outlining that they reject any move to take away their social housing powers in the interest of local democracy.

Councillors at the meeting reacted angrily to a media report published last week detailing the Government's plans to set up regional housing authorities that will carry out the housing functions of a number of councils.

Under the proposed reforms, town councils will lose their housing functions to the new regional bodies, which will arrange to rent and lease social housing to people on council housing lists. City and county council housing departments will also be merged to save money and increase efficiency.

In the report, Minister Finneran questioned the need for 88 different housing authorities around the country to support the delivery of housing services. He said the reforms would result in savings. Staff numbers would fall but the new housing authorities would be more efficient, he said.

Senior Department of Environment officials are currently working on the reforms, which are expected to be announced in the coming weeks and then put out to public consultation.

Labour Cllr Denis Landy proposed sending the letter to Minister Finneran and pointed out that it was important the Minister was made aware of the opposition of local elected representatives before these reforms went any further.

He denounced the plan to strip town councils of their housing powers as an attack on local democracy at a time when the demand for council housing had dramatically increased.

He said there were certain local authority services that could be centralised but housing wasn't one of them.

"Housing is a day to day issue with elected representatives. It requires a hands on approach every day and if this function is to be take away you are doing away with a certain amount of democracy at local level.

"We have 225 housing applications on our books at the moment, which is an increase of 38% since 2009. That is a large amount of people who have to interact with the local authority and get housed," he said.