OPINION: Sounding out the restoration of a single council for Naas town

Paul O'Meara gives his view

Paul O'Meara

Reporter:

Paul O'Meara

Email:

paul@leinsterleader.ie

OPINION: Sounding out the restoration of a single council for Naas town

Some politicians feel Naas has not been served well by the loss of Naas Town Council

There’s a case to be made for restoring town councils — or at least some of them. That’s the feeling of more than a few politicians.

Naas Town Council (NTC) had a budget and it had powers, it collected rates from the business community and was answerable to the community. The abolition of the town councils took place in 2014 and local elections followed.

There was no hue and cry when some 80 town councils were done away with under legislation brought in by then Fine Gael Minister Phil Hogan.

Most of us think that getting rid of politicians is a good ideas. Because they’re worthless. And there are too many of them. Right ?

Wrong.

The more politicians there are, the more access you have. Sure they can be criticised and often times they don’t have the powers to do all that they want.

But there is a balance to be struck between running a town or a geographical area on policies agreed centrally one hand and on the wishes of the people who represent us locally , on the other.

The effect of the abolition of the councils nationwide was to drastically reduce the number of councillors per capita.

It would be wrong to infer that Naas went to pot when it lost its local authority — after 600 years — around mid-2014.

But the assimilation of Naas into the Naas Municipal District (one of five municipal districts covering the entire county) has not obviously improved the town. That said, the NMD is very well run. The councillors by and large leave party politics out of meetings and, unlike many other local authorities, they can and do work together. Current Mayor Rob Power is striving to make the workings of the NMD as transparent as possible for the public and to engage us.

The NMD embraces the areas of Kilcullen, Kill, Sallins, Johnstown, Kill and Sallins. It’s given rise to the perception that the influence of Naas has been diluted. The other towns were always represented at Kildare County Council level anyway.

At the time the town councils were gotten rid off, Hogan said that the it would save around €400m, but it’s hard to see that much of that was spent around Naas.

Fianna Fail may be playing politics but it wants the town councils restored.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin is on record as saying that the decision to abolish the council was the worst made in four years.

According to local politician Seamie Moore the quality of services has fallen . He has also said that the population of the town is to increase to 50,000 in less than 20 years.

It’s hard to argue with him when he says that it would be very silly to have a town with that population — but no town council.

Cllr Darren Scully has also said that a full time council official is needed in Naas because it is major population centre.

At a more recent NMD meeting Cllr Scully pointed to a lack of focus on Naas and agreement to provide facilities that haven’t arrived.

A recent example of how the NTC or Naas Urban District Council as it was previously known is missed is the new parking rules. New wardens enforcing rules work for a private company, Apcoa. The idea is that new arrangements will bring improve the parking regime and bring in more money for Kildare County Council and, of course, Apcoa.

However there is was little enough debate about this at NMD level and Naas residents are not fully aware of all the rules now operating since these were changed.