'An enhancement of powers, not an erosion': Howlin
MINISTER for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, says the proposals outlined last week should be seen as an enhancement of local government powers rather than an erosion of them.
He explained that under the plans outlined by Minister Hogan, Wexford Borough Council is giving way to a Municipal Borough which will take in the extended hinterland around the town.
Town Councils in Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross are to become Municipal Districts, with responsibility for the rural areas around them.
Minister Howlin said County Wexford is ideal because it naturally divides into four main towns and their surrounding areas.
Instead of being responsible for the town areas alone, the new authorities will have an integrated focus on their wider districts.
The powers of Wexford Municipal Borough will extend to Rosslare Harbour, for example, while Gorey Municipal District will be responsible for Courtown and other seaside resorts around it.
According to Minister Howlin, many people living in the rural hinterland of Wexford identify with the town but have never had a vote in Borough Council elections.
That will change under Minister Hogan's reforms, with ten councillors drawn from the wider Wexford area, being elected to the Wexford Municipal Borough.
Eight councillors are expected be elected to the Municipal Districts of Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross.
'I see it not as an abolition of borough and town councils but as an enhancement,' said Deputy Howlin.
More powers will be devolved to the new local authorities, with most of the decision-making taking place at municipal level, he said.
The election of new councillors will take place in June 2014, with voters in each district getting one ballot paper only.
All 34 councillors elected to the districts will come together to form Wexford Councy Council.
'You will have a much more competent local authority and once the framework is there, more decision-making will be devolved to councillors who will also have responsibility for economic development.'
'Apart from planning, all the existing powers of councillors will be maintained and enhanced and there will be a rebalancing of power between management and elected representatives,' he said.
Meanwhile, he added that all the proud traditions associated with Wexford Borough Council will be preserved.
Minister Howlin, who himself served as Mayor of Wexford in the past, said the mayoralty and all the ceremonial functions attached to it will not be affected by the reforms.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan's plan will enhance and strengthen Wexford rather than downgrade its status, the Wexford Labour T. D. said.
'I was keen to ensure that all the traditions would continue,' he said.