Kilkenny has attracted yet another prestigious conference this weekend. The Association of County and City Councils hosts its annual event in the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny on Friday and Saturday. It will be attended by 400 delegates and some of those will bring their partners
With expected widespread change in the air promised by Environment and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan, this year’s function will have extra bite. The programme for government includes a radical set of Imminent reforms in the Irish local government sector.
Some of these reforms, like the creation of Irish Water is bound to provide for heated debate among the elected members because water has always been a core responsible of councils. Services provided by the County and City Councils are more diverse, wide ranging and complex in their entirety than those provided by any other single arm of the public service.
They range from the social such as housing and community development; to the environmental by way of waste management and pollution monitoring; through the infrastructural in terms of road, water and sewerage networks; and the cultural in terms of arts and libraries.
Even this is not an exhaustive categorisation with councils involved in an array of promotional, developmental, regulatory and agency activities.
The Association of County and City Councils is led by Kilkenny man Michael O’Brien and represents 883 County and City Councillors and is adapting a positive note with its theme ‘On The Verge of Change.
Speakers reflect the potential for local government to help drive enterprise by way of change and growth.
They include: Minister Phil Hogan; Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin; Kilkenny County Manager Joe Crockett; IFA President John Bryan from Inistioge; Jim Bergin, head of Glanbia Ingredients in Irwland from Freshford; Chambers of Ireland President John Purcell and Terry Clune of Taxback.com and the ‘Succeed in Ireland’ jobs initiative.
County and City Councils employ of the order of 29,000 people directly; and many more indirectly; through contracts for projects had a budget of €8 bilion in 2011. In fact, some councils are the largest employer in their locality, with local spending on services and supplies one of the central drivers of the local economy.