Newbridge, Naas, Leixlip and Athy town councils to be scrapped

Newbridge, Naas, Leixlip and Athy town councils are set to be scrapped.

Newbridge, Naas, Leixlip and Athy town councils are set to be scrapped.

That’s according to proposed legislation published by the Government today, Tuesday, October 16.

In a document ‘Putting People First’ which was released by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, the Government outlines plans to divide the county up into “municipal districts”.

In what’s being called the most radical shakeup of the local authority system in over 100 years, Councillors will be elected initially to the the municipal district.

And all District councillors will go to make up the membership of the county council.

In a sense, it will be quite similar to the current system of Electoral Area Committees – although the areas will be configured more so around large urban areas than is currently the case.

The functions of the Municipal Districts clearer and stronger than is the case with the town councils.

And they will have their own income and budget.

In crafting the document, the Government has acknowledged the contradiction between the role played by local town councillors on an informal basis in their communities and the limited formal powers of the councils they have been elected to.

The Government believes that the desire and importance of the people to have access to effective representation is not well served by the current Town Council structure.

The Councils were established more than 100 years ago, when all of the towns were much smaller than they are today.

“This fails to reflect the reality that the influence or “reach” of a town extends well beyond its boundary which, in many cases, does not even encompass the entire built up area of the actual town,” the document outlines.

As a result, councillors representing 14% of the population of the State account for 46% of all councillors.

The councils “are relatively weak in terms of legal powers and resources and their relationship with the county councils is not coherent”.

The Minister notes that there is “fragmentation of resources and operations and duplication of functions and membership”.

The municipal districts will be “based generally around principal towns and titled appropriately”.

“The municipal district will, in effect, be the first level of governance and democratic representation in the State.”

The districts will be “determined on the basis of an independent review of electoral areas

involving a statutory local electoral area boundary committee” and will be decided by the next local elections in 2014.

Interestingly, county towns and towns with a population of more than 20,000 will have a mayor.

By slashing the number of local authorities from 114 to 31, the Government aims to save €420 million over the next four years.

The number of councillors will drop from 1,627 to 950.

Minister Hogan said he hoped the changes would rebuild the public’s trust in local government,

The proposals are as a result of recommendations by the Mahon Tribunal.

One added change is that councillors will have less responsibility in the planning process.

- Conor McHugh