Republic’s councils: Power without responsibilities?

Here’s one we missed from yesterday. It made the front page in Indo, and concerns the lowest tier of government in the Republic, which are now

…relying on overdrafts and bank loans to meet day-to-day expenses, the Irish Independent has learned.

This is despite the councils being ordered to reduce their costs and borrowings three years ago — a directive that has been widely ignored.

And while the councils themselves are owed more than €500m in unpaid levies, rates and water charges, a series of audits reveals a litany of waste and poor financial management within the local authorities.

The cash crisis means further cutbacks to local services are inevitable.

The audits found three councils are in dire financial straits, while 18 of the 24 whose accounts were examined are running a deficit or are overdrawn.

Councils are minister Phil Hogan’s sights for reform. Jack Lynch ‘reforms’ of 1977 gutted councils of any effective local democratic scrutiny leaving TDs to take up much of the responsibility for generating local resources…

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  • Drumlins Rock

    Makes our 26 look pretty efficient, shame SinnDup are about to wreck all that.

  • Local Government Officer

    DR, I wouldn’t bet on it. 2015 is, of course, still 3 years away.

    Where’s the timetable for action on this? Is there still legislation to pass? And are we not starting to squabble over boundaries again/already, even if they are Parliamentary ones…?

    Anyone want to take a monetary bet on full-blown RPA still not being in place by 2015?

    But we digress from the topic.

  • MrPMartin

    In my considered opinion, all local government is mired in croneyism, pettyness, pet policies which are little more than ciphers for clientelism and wasting public money on endevours to help the party at large get votes for the big Parliament.

    The main and typical roles local governance, in any nation are as follows:
    Garbage collection
    Leisure centres
    Public parks
    Street cleaning

    However, do we need councils to provide these services? Take bin collections: can central government not command a National Bin day or at least have a designated bin day for each town and city without a council getting involved? We dont need councils to build and run Post Offices, do we?

    As for leisure centres, why? I am not questioning the merits of these emporiums of fitness but I am questioning why councils feel the need to build and run them? Ok, we need shops and filling stations too but we dont look to the council to run these, do we? If you think it about it more, surely publicly funded leisure centres are to the detriment of privately run leisure businesses. Does anyone seriously think people can’t use their own money save through cut or abolished rates to pay fees for newly established privately funded budget gyms? The market will always fill the gap that need creates so spare me the argument ‘what about low income groups access to gyms’. Believe me, the market would step in and provide equally cheap if not cheaper amenities.

    Street lighting, is there a difference in principle between Labour and Tory /Fianna Fail vs Fine Gael / SF vs DUP on how light banishes darkness from Maint Street, Anytown?

    Street cleaning: why can’t we create a civic society where people volunteer to clean their own communities?

    Everytime we invite the State into any room in our house, it does an ok but half-assed job while those who were in the room before the State came in, watch the State get to work and sit on the sofas, getting lazy and blase.

    When the State gets involved, it has the unintended consequence of divorcing people from how things work. Welfare was only intended for temporarily jobless breadwinners to be tided over until they found work. It was never intended to be a lifestyle choice – but it has evolved like that but that’s another thread.

    But its the same principle with councils, whereever they are. The more THEY do, the less WE do. The more THEY do, the less WE are connected to our civic duties and responsibilities.

    Here’s another example, meals on wheels. A laudable and wonderful thing indeed. No question about it but why can’t neighbours or friends or family provide this? I tell you why, the State and Statist thinking has invited the State in to play the role of surrogate family with the result that hitherto family ties and role and responsibilites slowly but surely withered away due to increasing redundancy leaving us a largely unhappy people, a people of broken homes, nuclear families and lonely old people.

    So, whither councils: I say scrap them and let the people wake up and take over roles and responsibilities that not only they should assume but would make a better and more civic and happier society for it would be a people who once again, feel a connection to the community around them.

  • Drumlins Rock
  • Alias

    One thing Ireland could learn from its nearest neighbour is to separate the grant of planning permission for development from local councils and transfer it to a central authority, as they do in NI.

    There is widespread suspicion that a lot of these councillors only go into local politics for the lucrative backhanders related to their ability to grant planning permission.

    Certainly a drive through any rural town in Ireland confirms the suspicion that the local public interest isn’t what motivated councillors to grant permission for local development.