Local Government Reform
Government policy on local government reform was set out in Putting People First, Action Programme for Local Government (pdf, 8,110kb) (the ‘Action Programme’) published in October 2012. A programme to implement these reforms is underway under the Local Government Reform Act 2001, which was revised and updated by the Local Government Reform Act 2014 (pdf, 1,349kb).
Many of the reforms set out in the Action Programme were introduced with effect from 1 June 2014. These included the merging of the city and county councils of Waterford and Limerick and the two county councils in Tipperary, the dissolution of town councils, the introduction of 95 municipal districts and a new regional assembly structure. Under the updated legislation councillors now have stronger policy making powers and a greater level of control over the actions of the local authority chief executive. Local authorities are also, under the amended legislation, able to become more involved in the economic development of their communities.
The key structural changes can be summarised as follows: -
- the number of local authorities has been reduced from 114 to 31;
- the number of elected members has reduced from 1,627 to 949;
- 80 town councils have been dissolved;
- 95 municipal districts have been established;
- 8 regional authorities and 2 regional assemblies have been replaced by 3 regional assemblies; and,
- the number of regional members has been reduced from 290 to 83.
There are 95 municipal districts covering the entire area of each county (apart from Dublin, Cork and Galway cities). Districts correspond with local electoral areas except in the case of the Dundalk, Kilkenny City, and Mullingar municipal districts, where each municipal district comprises two local electoral areas, and the metropolitan districts of Limerick and Waterford, which contain three local electoral areas each. The first local election to the municipal districts was in June 2014. Councillors elected for each local electoral area are now the municipal district members for the relevant municipal district with the plenary council (the county council or the city and county council) consisting of the combined membership of all municipal districts.
The municipal district members perform a range of statutory functions in respect of their own district. Other matters of wider strategic application are generally decided at county level by the elected members from all the municipal districts meeting in plenary formation.
Local Government Boundary Reviews
In January 2015, the Minister established two independent statutory committees to examine the most appropriate arrangements for local government in Cork City and County and Galway City and County. In each case the committees were asked to examine the boundaries between the city and county and (i) to make recommendations as to whether or not either boundary should be altered, or (ii) whether the two local authorities should be unified in either or both cases. There were five members on each committee with expertise in local government, law, business and academia.
The Cork Local Government Committee submitted its report (Local Government Arrrangements in Cork) to the Minister on 2 September 2015 with a majority of the committee members recommending that the local authorities should be unified; a minority report disagreed with this view. The report of the Galway Local Government Review Committee has been completed and was submitted to the Minister on 30 November. Both reports are to be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform.
In June 2015 four independent statutory committees were established by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to review local government boundaries in Athlone, Carlow, Drogheda and Waterford. In each case, the committees have been asked to carry out a review of the boundary between the respective counties and city and county and to make recommendations with respect to those boundaries and any consequential recommendations with respect to the areas of the Municipal, Borough or Metropolitan Districts, as appropriate, that they consider to be necessary in the interests of effective local government. All boundary committees are due to report by end March 2016.
Taking Matters Forward-Review
In order to ensure that the new system is being operated effectively and as intended, a review commenced in 2015 in relation to the operation of the new structures and arrangements generally. The review involves an Advisory Group, on which both elected members and local authority chief executives are represented, together with a Local Government Forum for engagement with the Association of Irish Local Government. The outputs from this examination will help in the assessment of the new system and whether any adjustments might be needed.
Tel: +353 (0)1 888 2388 (Veronica Healy)