Bray Harbour Steering Group EstablishedApril 6, 2021
Five-Year National Climate Initiative LaunchedApril 7, 2021
atest press release from Cllr Tom Fortune, issued on Wednesday, April 2021…
Written in the form of Letter To The Editor, the words and opinions are, of course, the councillor’s own.
Something that I have observed over a number of years is causing me great concern.
For at least ten years there has been a gradual erosion of County Councillor powers and input on all matters.
It seems that the work of councillors, who are democratically elected and whose main responsibility is to hold the executive to account, is being passed over to unelected committees such as town teams, etc. This has increased in pace in recent years.
You have members of local authority executive sitting on these unelected committees, a mirror image of elected district councils, organising and scheduling meetings, selecting participants. The same amount of executives do not attend the municipal district meetings and when they do, you have to invite them for what can only be described as their doing the councillors a favour. All of this should, if it is to continue, be under the control of the elected councillors who have the desire and skill sets to do this and who are elected by the public. The executive also needs to be more answerable to elected members.
The dual mandate was stopped twenty years ago; this was done to achieve better and more independent local government. Recently there has been a reversal of this through the back door. Some TDs have put their personal assistants on to local authorities to replace them when they were elected to the Dail, which is really dual mandate through the back door. They are employees of the relevant TD and they operate accordingly. It is plain to see that they are there just to represent the TD.
All of this is undermining the local authority member and requires urgent reversal. There is no respect for the local councillor from the local authority executive.
Local government is being fully controlled from central government. This is done by the major parties using the ‘whip’ on their councillors. The executive is just an implementer of the department overview which is politically influenced by any government of the day. All of this leads to a deficit of democracy locally and does not serve the public well. In a perfect situation all local authority members would be independent councillors, but that is a much bigger discussion. Some party councillors and government party councillors of the day are a barrier to smart and efficient local government.
We need to have an independent councillor organisation that mirrors the LGMA and have regular meetings with them. The Local Government Managers Association are an organisation that needs better oversight in the interests of better local democracy. Councillors need to be better paid. It is a full time role yet we are paid half the minimum wage. TDs have a package that is twenty times greater. We need a stronger and consistent relationship with independent senators.
This is all leading to a decline of local government and undermining of councillors.
Progression of the erosion/decline:
1. Monthly meetings reduced from 2 to 1.
2. Standing orders manipulation.
3. Executive control of council meeting agendas.
4. Appointment of chairs to key committees, such as audit.
5. Planning oversight.
6. Housing Allocation.
7. Waste Management
8. Inner Sanctum control.
9. Water & Environment.
10. Manipulation of council management committee, through the control of SPC chairs.
11. GDPR- this enables the executive to stop influence of councillors regarding many areas of importance for the people who elect us.
12. No support from TDs — as I mentioned earlier, some are re-introducing the dual mandate through the back door.
13. Meetings are to the minimum and micro-managed. No proper time to discuss issues that effect the lives of our constituents.
14. Asking for legal advice is like pulling teeth.
15. Investment and project opportunities are not proactively and transparently discussed with elected members.
16. Everything is being managed to exclude the elected councillor at any opportunity.
All of this is not good for open and transparent democracy. Plain and simple.