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Department of Government Local Government: Options for Reform Dr. Aodh Quinlivan and Dr. Liam Weeks Department of Government University College Cork Presented.

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Presentation on theme: "Department of Government Local Government: Options for Reform Dr. Aodh Quinlivan and Dr. Liam Weeks Department of Government University College Cork Presented."— Presentation transcript:

1 Department of Government Local Government: Options for Reform Dr. Aodh Quinlivan and Dr. Liam Weeks Department of Government University College Cork Presented at Conference on ‘Political reform in the Republic of Ireland’ June , Trinity College Dublin

2 Department of Government Overview Contemporary debate on reform/ abolishment of political institutions Where stands local government? 1.What works 2.What’s wrong 3.What works elsewhere 4.Suggestions for reform

3 Department of Government 1. Local government: what works Political/administrative partnership (despite failure to adhere to reserved/executive legal distinction) Management System (What about DEMs?) Relaxation of ultra vires and promotion of general competence Innovation and creativity Electoral cycle

4 Department of Government 2. Local government: what’s wrong Perception of role Powers Structure of local government Finance Central/local relations

5 Department of Government Problems with local government 1. Perception of position

6 Department of Government How different are councillors to TDs? Local government recruiting ground for TDs (2007: 75%) TDs=councillors with greater powers of patronage Difference=nationally-oriented TDs, but these are a minority Most TDs act as glorified councillors (most used to be actual councillors prior to dual mandate ban)

7 Department of Government Why do TDs act like councillors? Michael Gallagher will talk more about this Problem is the training ground Why is it surprising they repeat habits learned at the council level? Proposition: should local government no longer be a training ground for the Dáil?

8 Department of Government Blame the voters? Source: 2009 RTE/Sunday Independent Lansdowne exit poll

9 Department of Government Problems with local government - Powers Top-down approach Powers of councils limited to eight categories – housing, roads, water and sewerage, and planning [physical environment] Very narrow range in comparison to most European countries. Functions of Irish local authorities result of a combination of history, accident and attachment to tradition Devolution Commission 1995 Master/servant relationship Callanan: “.… it appears that many politicians, even committed advocates of local government reform, have given up the ghost of a major devolution of functions to local authorities”

10 Department of Government Problems with local government - Structure Counties, cities, towns and boroughs (Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo, Wexford) Illogical arrangements at Town Council level 15% of population – significant discrepancies in size Make them relevant or abolish (based on the Act of 2001, the latter seems more likely) Water and sanitary functions transferred upwards to county level Are we well served by the county system? Big variations in representation Do we need more or less local government?

11 Department of Government Council and cllr representation in EU

12 Department of Government Problems with local government - Finance The litmus test for central government’s commitment to local democracy Expenditure of more than €10 billion per annum Abolition of domestic rates and agricultural rates Succession of reports ignored (KPMG, Indecon etc.) Disproportionate burden on business sector Commission on Taxation – property tax? domestic water charges? Money allocated through ‘Needs and Resources’ model?

13 Department of Government Problems with local government – central/local relations Centralisation characteristic outcome of revolutions Appropriate perhaps for 1920s but today? ‘intense centralisation and general subordination’; ‘arteries have grown too hard and bureaucratic sclerosis has become too far advanced’ Change of mentality required Councillors who become TDs forget about strengthening local government when they get to the Dáil Power of dissolution re-stated in 2001 Act ‘The Nuclear option’ – inconsistent with principles of local democracy

14 Department of Government 3. Local government: what works well Denmark always held up as role model Scandinavian model opposed to the principle of ultra vires; follows principle of subsidiarity Switzerland – participation through local referenda United Kingdom – cabinet model at local level 3 categories: (a) local government takes a national role: Austria, Denmark, Finland (b) Consultation role: Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the UK (c) Cosmetic role: Germany, Ireland and Portugal.

15 Department of Government 4. Local government: suggestions for reform (a)Make local government stronger Increase revenue-raising powers: devolve taxation base to local level Devolve powers over local issues to local government Part of a global trend of decentralising power: abide by principle of subsidiarity This would narrow focus of Dáil: could this reduce numbers of TDs

16 Department of Government 4. Local government: suggestions for reform (b) Use as laboratory for political reform Reduce voting age to 16? Electronic voting (e.g. Scotland) Sunday voting Non-partisan elections (e.g. USA) Different electoral system (e.g. Scotland) Recall system? Should representation by region be replaced by representation by function?

17 Department of Government 4. Local government: suggestions for reform (c) Fission, not fusion, from national arena Ban councillors from running for Dáil? Local and Dáil elections on same day? (or locals shortly after) Give local government a clear role: the arena to discuss local issues


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