The abolition of town councils across County Kildare will destroy local democracy and centralise powers away from communities.
That’s according to Cllr. Willie Callaghan, a member of both Kildare County Council and Naas Town Council.
Naas Town Council will be done away with, along with Athy Town Council and town councils in Leixlip and Newbridge.
Both Naas and Athy are partly self funding in the sense that they collect their own rates whereas Leixlip and Newbridge have less powers.
Cllr. Callaghan said the outcome of the Seanad referendum is proof that simply slashing democratic representation “will not cut it with the people of Ireland.”
Cllr. Callaghan is chairman of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, which represents town councils.
Genuine reform at all levels of our democracy needs to happen, he said, but it must not occur at the expense of democratic institutions that are best placed to serve the local community.
He added: “Town councils currently have the power to determine local charges such as commercial rates or parking charges and then to decide how these monies are spent within their towns, such as on community groups, residents associations and sporting groups.
“This power is now being taken away.”
Legislation published last week provides for the abolition of 80 town councils across Ireland which will be replaced by new entities - Municipal District Councils.
These MDCs will be a lot bigger, encompassing both urban and rural areas.
Town councils sill lose their independent revenue raising powers and MDCS will be handed financial allocations, irrespective of the actual amount of monies raised within each MDC.
“The Minister (Phil Hogan) has spoken at length about strengthening local democracy but his actions reflected in the proposals within this Bill, show no willingness to achieve this objective. The new MDCs have no financial autonomy meaning they will not be able to exercise their functions,” said Cllr. Callaghan.
He stated the growing disconnect between local communities and the political system will exacerbate as a result of the Bill .
“On October 4 the Irish people during the Seanad referendum made it clear they do not support the abolition of political institutions, such as town councils.
“Instead they demand real political reform. the government by refusing to heed the call for political reform continues to ignore the will of the people.”
He said Minister Hogan has yet to respond to a letter from the AMAI seeking that the legislation be postponed so that local government reform can be fully considered by the Constitutional Convention.
“The AMAI wants real reform and the want local government to work better and deliver for all citizens.
“We urge the Minister to accede to our request. Political reform is a once-in-a-generation opportunity which must not be wasted,” added Cllr. Callaghan.
He said the AMAI is available to engage with the Minister.