COUNCILLORS are bracing themselves for a root and branch overhaul of local government expected from Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan in the coming weeks.
Over 400 elected local authority members from across Ireland descended on Kilkenny last weekend, to attend the Association of County and City Councils (ACCC) conference held in the Newpark Hotel. The conference was chaired by Kilkenny County Councillor Michael O’ Brien, who is the current president of the ACCC.
The event had a particular significance this year, given the backdrop of impending reforms of local government by Minister Hogan.
Speakers at the conference included notable Kilkenny business owners including John Purcell, Glanbia’s Jim Bergin, Taxback.com’s Terry Clune, Kilkenny county manager Joe Crockett, president of the IFA John Bryan, as well as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin,
Minister Hogan also addressed the conference on Saturday evening, but made no substantive comments regarding the imminent reforms, which are unlikely to be announced until after the referendum on the Fiscal Treaty.
Chairing the conference, Cllr Michael O’ Brien said his colleagues would likely be critical of some of the expected reforms, but were glad to have what he termed “a decisive minister” making them.
“The talk at the conference has been quite positive,” he said.
“We know there are going to be changes, we know that some of it is going to be painful. We inherited the British system and haven’t changed it in 112 years, and it is creaking.”
Cllr O’ Brien said that Minister Hogan had a difficult challenge ahead in improving local representation. He criticised the overlapping of services at a local level and dual-mandate representation.
“It is a throwback to a rank and status system,” he said.
“Every elected member should be on the same level, with resources spread evenly. In this country, we have a democratic deficit but also a overlapping in democracy, which is wasteful.”