Excellence in Local Government Awards 2016 - Address by Minister English

Published on Thursday, 24 Nov 2016
Aire Stáit Damien English TD

Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, 24th November 2016

Cathaoirligh, Oireachtas members, Councillors, Chambers Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good evening and welcome to you all.

As Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal I am honoured to be here tonight, at my first Excellence in Local Government Awards, in association with Chambers Ireland.

Thank you Ian and your team for your kind invitation. Let me say at the outset that I completely endorse your view on the vital importance of local authorities and businesses working together. Collaboration is the best way to deliver for our communities.

These Awards, in their 13th year, are a way of saying ‘Thank You’.

The Awards are a timely acknowledgement of the significant contribution Local Government makes to our economy and society in every community throughout Ireland.  And I am here as Minister, to join in with this acknowledgement.

This contribution happens in both urban and rural settings.  All of us in our daily lives benefit through the wide range of services Local Government provides.  As a personal recipient of these services I would like to say thank you.

These Awards were established to recognise and foster excellence, best practice and innovation in local government.  As a former Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills I am very happy to be associated with this event, and more importantly, to endorse it.

This time last year, in my old Department, we were putting the final touches to the new Science Strategy, Innovation 2020. One of the key messages that I received, loud and clear from stakeholders in that process was, the need to integrate Innovation and excellence in all we do.

Innovation and excellence needs to be embedded in every Government Department, Local Authority and in every business.  Be they: big or small, urban or rural, local or nationwide. Innovation is about future proofing our economy, our organisations and our people.  Innovation is also about creating new well paid jobs and making them sustainable for all.

Innovation is about being imaginative and forward thinking in every part of our society, our economy and our lives.  In so doing, we can meet the new and many challenges we face as a country in the years ahead.

We need the same imagination, innovation and creativity in the debate about the future of public services, including reform and reward…

I believe in public service and I believe in you.  I believe in what you have done and in what you continue to do, in partnership with the private sector, to drive the economic and social recovery of our country. In our cynical age, it is important to remember that public service and civic pride is a noble calling, in fact it’s a vocation. 

It is a form of practical patriotism.  When we recognise and highlight excellence, be it through Awards like tonight, or through new imaginative thinking on public sector pay and reforms, we reinforce those values of civic pride and practical patriotism.

All the nominees and winners tonight are examples of excellence, best practice and are part of local government reform.

As you are all aware Irelands local government system has been undergoing fundamental change in recent years. It’s structures have been radically reformed, its funding has been put on a more stable footing, its operational arrangements have been made more efficient. Its governance has been strengthened and the focus has changed with greater emphasis on economic and social aspects.

There are many challenges facing local government and challenge number one is housing and the rebuilding of our communities. The innovation, the excitement and the energy I see, hear and feel in this room tonight and my interaction with the staff in my own department leaves me in no doubt that we will fix this crisis tapping into excellence, best practice and innovation in the delivery of housing.

Local Authority Performance
One of the reforms implemented in 2014 was the establishment of the National Oversight and Audit Commission – NOAC – to provide independent oversight of the local government sector.

Earlier this month, NOAC published a report on performance indicators for local authorities for 2015. Although there are some areas where improvement continues to be needed, the report showed an overall positive improvement in performance in many areas. For example:

  • an additional 9,000 plus social housing units were supplied in 2015, compared to under 4,000 in 2014,
  • the End of Year social housing vacancy rate decreased to 3.5% at the end of 2015, compared to 3.8% at end 2014,
  • overall compliance of private drinking water supplies with Drinking Water Regulations was 97.97%, again an improvement on 2014, and
  • there was no gross litter pollution in 24 local authority areas in 2015 compared to 22 in 2014.

These results reinforce the message that there is much good work being done around the country, though, of course, there is no room for complacency. We must always work for better performance for the citizen and for businesses.

Turning to the role of business in Ireland, Chambers Ireland members have also played a vital part in the social and economic recovery of our country. They too need our help, support and encouragement to continue to grow and create more jobs.

Running a business today is not easy.  Every day brings its daily worries, its daily opportunities – its ups and downs. It is often assumed that people in business are millionaires.  This is not the reality.  The reality is that it is often hard for business to make ends meet; to pay the bills or to pay the wages at the end of the week.

It is important that those of us in Government and in Local Authorities recognise this.  We have a duty to keep costs down, to allow business continue to grow, make more sales, create more jobs and earn their just reward.

As decision makers how can we best help business?

Through constant and never ending innovation and improvement.

We can help:

  • By showcasing the winners from tonight’s awards.
  • By working more closely with business through the Chamber network
  • By connecting more with each other
  • By understanding each other’s needs
  • Ultimately though we can help by bringing the best ideas celebrated here and implement them as best practice Nationwide.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a great deal more I could say tonight:

  • Action Plan for Housing
  • Library sector
  • Brexit
  • US elections
  • But I won’t……

I know that I now stand between you and a fine meal, an enjoyable and entertaining night. So I will finish by offering my thanks to Ian and Chambers Ireland, to all the sponsors and all the judges.

Well done to all the nominees.  Your country, your Council, your community and yourselves can be proud of your successes.

Enjoy your night.


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