lEITRIM’S 22 County Councillors have only one more week to wait before they hear what Local Government reforms are to be imposed on them.
The big announcement by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan was expected earlier this month, but it is now understood that the programme for Local Government reform will be revealed next week.
Phil Hogan spoke at the annual conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland in Ballinasloe last weekend and told conference delegates, who represent town and city councillors, that his own experience as a councillor, TD and Minister had made him acutely aware of the “many deep-seated shortcomings” in the local government system. He went on to say the performance of elected members had on occasion “failed to inspire confidence.” He noted the recent experience, of elected members refusing to take their responsibilities seriously by opposing the collection of the household charge and so depriving their communities of funding.
Last July speaking at the MacGill Summer School in the Glenties, Co Donegal, Minister Hogan said it was “extremely likely” the number of local authorities and councillors would be cut. There have been many rumours that town councils could be abolished, although there are no town councils in Leitrim but close by Boyle, Longford, Bundoran, Sligo and Belturbet town councils could get the chop. Others ideas floating about would be the merger of electoral districts which could see Leitrim with just two areas North and South. It is almost certain that the number of county councillors in each county will be cut, but the figures circulating from word of mouth is anything between 2 and 7 for each county.
Although Minister Hogan failed to give any clues about the expected reform announcement he said he intended to halt and reverse the trend of decline by ensuring that local authorities take on key functions in economic local development. He also said he would also devolve a wider range of functions from central agencies to local authorities, and strengthen the structures of local government, making them more effective, accountable and fit for purpose.