The news of the scrapping of the Town Councils has produced a mixed reaction from current sitting councillors.
Naas has one of the stronger Town Councils having formerly been a Urban District Council (rather than a Town Commission) and in the eyes of at least one councillors, means it has a lot to lose.
Cllr. Seamie Moore, a member of Kildare County Council and Naas Town Council felt that Naas would lose out as a result of the new move, because a local authority in the town would no longer have access to the rates paid by businesses in Naas.
“It will go into a central pot and be distributed by the County Council.
Naas would be subsidising areas that don’t have town councils, he feared.
“It’s not about representation, it’s about equalisation.
He also noted that Kildare County Council took advantage of the good name of Naas, but that, by zoning a shopping centre just outside the town, it had “ruined the town centre”.
He added that he had always been critical of that move.
Cllr. Willie Callaghan, agreed that reform was necessary, but wasn’t sure this was it.
“First and foremost, it’s a bad day for local democracy with the abolition of 650 councillors.”
He said that as a member of the Municipal Authorities Association of Ireland there was no doubt that the system needed reform.
“Reading the document, there’s very little about the reform. It’s not clear exactly what powers the councillors will have.”
He said there was a lot of anger in relation to it.
“This time last year, Minister Hogan said he wouldn’t do away with any town councils, and yet here he is now, proposing this.
“There’s a lot in it, but a huge amount of clarity is required.
“For instance there’s no discussions on finance. We met him in the Custom House last week and he said that will come in the Bill stage.
“That’s not good enough for the members. We don’t know where we stand. We don’t know what the boundaries are going to be.”
And he noted that by the time it’s fully known which way things are going to go, it’ll be early next year, leaving “a very short run in for elections in 2014”.
Naas Town Councillor and County Councillor, Darren Scully labelled Phil Hogan’s plans to abolish town councils as “window dressing”.
He said he hadn’t seen the full details yet, but would be cautious about the proposals. He stressed they did not go far enough and that councillors would not have any real power.
“I think that Naas Town Council will be badly missed,” he stressed. He said the council had a budget ring fenced for Naas and those funds would now go into a central pot which means Naas might not get the same attention. He said Naas Town Council staff were unsure as to what was going to happen with their jobs as those services would now be centralised.
“I think this is nothing more than a shop window dressing exercise. They needed to introduce reforms like in the UK, Germany or France. The reforms do not go far enough,” he said.
He pointed out that nine town council jobs would be lost in Naas but the county council could end up with 42 councillors and result in a massive talking shop . He also believes the level of service to towns will slip without the dedicated town councils.
Cllr. Ger Dunne said he wasn’t “quite sure how it’ll affect us. I’ll have to wait until the local municipal districts are drawn up”.
Noting that the current electoral area stretches from Kilcullen to the far side of Kill.
“It very much depends on that.
“It’s another one of Mr. Phil Hogan’s jobbies. He’s not getting on too well.
“It’s going to be very interesting. It’ll certainly be a very interesting local election.”