“Since the foundation of our State, there has been a fear and mistrust of Local Government by the Centralised National Government,” claims Cllr Tania Doyle (Ind for Ongar).
Plus, she claims, Ireland has lower council spending and less powers than our counterparts in the EU.
This, she says, dates back to our historical roots, back to the early times of the Free State. She continued: “Ireland was also found to have one of the lowest scores under the Local Autonomy Index (LAI), with Irish local government scoring a rank just above Hungary, the Russian Federation and Moldova. The conclusions showed an imbalance between the elected council in Ireland and the chief executives in local authorities.”.
“The British had actually devolved much power to local government in the 1890s, but one of the Free State’s first acts was to abolish many of the powers of county councils and replace them with unelected county managers.
“A prime example of the ‘shutting down’ of the Dublin Corporation was by the first National Government. Central Government has never trusted Local Government. Ireland has been found in breach of several provisions of the European Local SelfGovernment Charter, according to a draft report published by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE), part of the 46-nation Council of Europe.”
Less power and lower spending
She continued: “Ireland was also found to have one of the lowest scores under the Local Autonomy Index (LAI), with Irish local government scoring a rank just above Hungary, the Russian Federation and Moldova.”
According to the draft report, one of the charter breaches relates to the fact that the “local government share of public expenditures in Ireland is only 8 per cent, as compared to 23 per cent in the EU as a whole”.
The draft findings conclude that local authorities do not manage “a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility.”
CEs have more power since 2014 reforms
“Cllr Doyle said: “Put simply, councillors here have fewer powers than in almost every other country and have limited revenue-raising and spending powers. Since the 2014 reforms, the position and powers of the Chief Executive have increased resulting in a growing imbalance between the executive powers of the CE and the reserved powers of the elected councillors.
“Accordingly, this leads to a democratic deficit where decisions can be made without direct democratic accountability. This is outdated, anti-democratic, and no longer tenable and was never acceptable.
“The EU LAI report makes several recommendations, including devolving more powers and responsibilities to local and regional authorities and increasing the number of resources that can be used at the discretion of local authorities.
“I believe an immediate re-balancing of powers from the executive to the elected council needs to take place,” concluded Cllr Doyle.
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