Mixed response from councillors to proposals

The news of the scrapping of the Town Councils has produced a mixed reaction from current sitting councillors.

The news of the scrapping of the Town Councils has produced a mixed reaction from current sitting councillors.

Cllr. Thomas Redmond of Athy Town Council described it as a “very exciting time for Athy”.

“Even though the loss of its historic town council will occur the new councillors will have more power.

“It may also mean the end to the job of a town manager who will be replaced by the councillors.”

He welcomed the reforms and the debates over the next number of months.

“ The new more transparent system will mean that being on the municipal council becomes a full time job.”

Cllr. James Mahon, also on Athy Town Council noted that “obviously with its long history it is unfortunate that the Town Council will be abolished.

He added that it was “likely that Athy will be the HQ for one of the Municipal Councils. It will more than likely have eight councillors with a catchment area of 40,000 people.”

Cllr. Kevin Byrne noted that Celbridge has never had a Town Council, and with a population of 22,000, the news system of Municipal Districts is “probably a bit fairer”.

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.

Colm Purcell, again a member of Kildare County Council and a town council, in this case Leixlip, was not in favour of the proposed changes.

He was very conscious of the intimate role played by Leixlip Town Council in the town.

“The thing about it is that as far as town councils are concerned, is you hold what you have.”

He referenced the council’s assistance to the tidy towns, the christmas lights committee, the annual festival, civic awards and various other environmental awards.”

Getting rid of the town council would, he felt, make local democracy and institutions less accessible to the people of Leixlip.

“Naas is too far away for people,” he argued. “In Leixlip, the town council is a one stop shop for people. They ring here to see who they should ask for in the county council.

“If you’ve never had one you’ll never miss it, but once you’ve had that town democracy, people will miss it,” he said.

In fact he was in favour of all urban areas with a population of 7,000 to 10,000 getting a town council, with great powers in housing and roads, “so that people can relate to it a lot better”.

- Conor McHugh