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New report finds that town councils should be enhanced, not scrapped

The McCarthy report recommended the abolishment of town councils and a consolidation of local government, but a new study has said that the councils are just an ‘easy target’.

A NEW REPORT looking into the value of local government, specifically town councils, has recommended that they should be enhanced rather than done away with.

In 2009 the McCarthy report recommended “abolishing both regional authorities and town councils to provide a single local authority tier with a reduced number of local authorities”, reducing the number from 34 to 22.

A study carried out by experts at UCC in association with the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland has found “town government has always been regarded as the poor relation and has never been afforded the status it deserves as the most fundamental tier of local democracy”.

The reports also said that town councils are an “easy target” which are not given enough status as part of the local government system.

The report recommended changing attitudes towards town councils but said “it is not clear if the political will exists at central government level to grasp the reform agenda with any bravery or vision”.

Concerns for democracy have been raised in the study, which said that the ratios of population to councillor would rise to “unprecedented levels”.

It recommends that town councils should be granted extra functions and be comprehensively reformed, rather than abolished.

In June the Minister for Local Government Phil Hogan said that he hopes to have a local government reform package before the Oireachtas in the autumn, which will include some of the major recommendations of the McCarthy report and the likes of the report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, which identified potential savings of €511 million.

Hogan also said, in response to a Dáil question by TD Niall Collins, that the number of local government staff has been reduced by 6,600 in the past two years.

About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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