Independent Cllr Mattie McGrathg has labelled the Local Government Bill that is due to be published today, as ‘a sledgehammer on local democracy’.
The Bill involves the biggest change in the organisation of local, city and county politics since the laws which are currently in place were established in 1898. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the Bill was approved by Cabinet at its meeting ahead of the budget on Tuesday.
“While there has been significant local resistance to this Bill it is deeply worrying that it has not attracted the kind of scrutiny that it deserves. We are in effect walking into an era of impoverished local government representation which will pave the way for the abolition of 80 town councils and merge six county councils into three. All of this is occurring during a period of Irish political life when people are expressing their profound concerns about the increasingly centralised nature of Government.
“Minister Hogan has argued that the current set-up is anomalous with some big towns which have grown in the past 100 years having no town council, and others that have seen population decline retaining theirs. But this seems an like an extraordinarily twisted logic because what he is saying in effect is; because some towns have no town councils we should move to abolish 80 of the ones that currently exist? This is utterly absurd.”
Many people have also expressed their concerns about the sheer size and impenetrability of the Bill with even the Labour Party proposing that more scrutiny was required of the Bill, which runs to 65 sections and will involve major structural changes for local authorities across the State:
“The Bill and the attached explanatory memorandum run to over 205 pages. This is a mammoth Bill by any standards and it most certainly requires a more thorough investigation than it has received to date. Of all of the amendments submitted, the only one to be accepted has been a new power of veto given to councillors on the appointment of chief executives of councils.
“This represents the kind of meaningless process that has come to mark the passage of Bills through the Houses of the Oireachtas; the Government makes great play of being a listening Government, and providing opportunities to change proposed legislation through debate, but in the end the Bills remain more or less exactly as they were before the debate or submission of amendments occurred. It is symptomatic of this Government’s desire to give all the appearance of accountability while diminishing every real opportunity for that to happen in a meaningful way,” said Deputy McGrath.