Biggest shakeup of local government

DEPUTY MAYOR FEARS EROSION OF DEMOCRACY

ELAINE FURLONG

IN WHAT is billed to be the biggest shakeup of local government in the history of the State, Environment Minister Phil Hogan is expected to abolish town councils when he brings radical reform plans to the Cabinet today ( Tuesday).

Representatives of county, borough and town councils from across Wexford will be travelling to Dublin today to hear the controversial plans.

It is expected the role of town councillors will be scrapped with enhanced county councils looking after towns and counties.

With the current system there are 114 town, city and county councils across the country, however under these proposals there is expected to be just 31 councils.

The President of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland Cllr. Ted Howlin will be among those from Co. Wexford who will be briefed on these proposals today.

According to the Deputy Mayor of Wexford Borough Council, Philomena Roche, while much of the proposals are speculative, there is 'definitely a ring of truth in some of it.

' There is definitely going to be very important reform - whether it's important to the country I don't know or to the people I don't know,' said Cllr. Roche, who is the former President of the AMAI.

'If you remove democracy from the core base we may be going down the wrong road,' she added.

In New Ross, the Cathaoirleach Paul Crowdle, feels these proposals will have a 'detrimental effect' on towns.

'We have been speculating on these proposals for the past year or 18 months since they were first announced and it is now finally coming to a head,' said Cathaoirleach Crowdle. ' There is a certain amount of reform needed and there is no harm in that,' he continued.

'It is looking likely that town councils will be disbanded and a district committee will be formed - that's my thinking. With that, local representation would be gone and I would think the district committee would deal more with general matters instead of more local specific, matters and local towns would suffer as a result... if there are no town councillors who are people going to go to,' he added.

Although he didn't receive an invitation, the Vice Chairperson of Gorey Town Council Bernard Crosbie said any proposals suggesting the abolition of town councils is 'very disappointing. There is so much going on in the town and so much history there, we do our but for the town would very disappointed to see it go,' said Cllr. Crosbie.

Even if the Cathaoirleach of Enniscorthy Town Council could attend the announcement in Dublin today ( Tuesday) Keith Doyle said he 'wouldn't be interested in going. Minister Phil Hogan is probably making one of the biggest mistakes in local government since the foundation of the State,' slammed the Cathaoirleach.

'What town councils can do on a limited budget far outweighs what county councils can do with a massive deficit. Local government should be reformed for the good of the local community and I can't see how what he is going to do will make local government better - we'll lose services, manpower, influences and projects,' he added.

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