Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan TD today (8th Mar 2013) issued a challenge to councillors to work with him on the Local Government Reform Programme.
Speaking to the annual conference of the Association of County and City Councils the minister said “Unlike many previous reform documents, this Programme sets out firm decisions by Government rather than proposals for discussion. It will result in reforms to make local government relevant to the 21st century, focused on actions to support economic development, and responsive to the needs of citizens and local communities”.
The Minister went on to thank the Association for their recent submission on the Action Programme and their clear acknowledgment that it is a programme of substantial and ambitious scope that maps out how local government can meet the challenges of modern times.
Minister Hogan assured the Association that the new system of municipal governance does not mean a reduction in the legislative status of County and City Councils as the primary units of local government. “The fact that the Action Programme states that the municipal districts will constitute the primary electoral and representational components of an integrated local government system does not conflict with the status of county and city councils as the primary local authorities”.
”The integrated aspect must be emphasised, because it is a key aspect of the whole reform programme. Duplication will end, and elected members will make decisions on matters at the most appropriate level – strategic matters at the level of the full Council, more local matters at the Municipal District level. Similarly, I can give assurance about the civic role and status of County and City Councils, which currently rests quite happily alongside that of the town local authorities and will continue to do so in the new municipal configuration”.
The alignment of the Local Government Sector and Local Development will strengthen the role of local government. One of the key areas where local authorities will be given additional functions is in relation to economic development and job creation. The current economic climate demands that we use whatever resources we have at our disposal to return our economy to sustainability and prosperity.
The integration of the micro-enterprise function is the most significant advance in local authority functions in a very long time and represents a reversal of a decades-long trend of local government being by-passed by new structures.
Minister Hogan also referred to the changes that are being implemented in Waterford, and took the opportunity to reassure the people of Waterford of their Mayoral status. “I have no doubt that both authorities will co-operate fully in bringing this work to a successful conclusion with the establishment of a strong and unified authority in 2014. I also have no doubt that this will greatly benefit the people of Waterford, both in the City and the County.”
Addressing the reform of the water sector, Minister Hogan said “The Government’s proposals for reform of water services provision are of significant interest to the elected members and the staff of the local authorities. There will be close co-operation and consultations with the local authorities during the reform process and it will also be critically important that there are structures for engagement between Irish Water and the local government sector, for example in relation to development and planning matters. These issues will be given due priority in the Government’s water reform programme.”