Senator proposes town councils for Ashbourne and the coast

Story by Tom Kelly

Saturday, 22nd September, 2007 9:00am

TOWN councils for Ashbourne and the Meath coastal area as well as the abolition of county managers are among the proposals in a submission by Senator Dominic Hannigan to the Department of Environment & Local Government.

Minister John Gormley is currently seeking submissions from members of the public and community groups on local government reform.

"I would encourage everyone to make their views known on this. After all, local government decisions effect a large portion of what goes on in our daily lives," said the former Labour Party Meath county councillor.

Senator Hannigan said he was proposing town councils - with directly-elected mayors - for Ashbourne and the Laytown/Bettystown/Mornington area. "These areas are now large enough to have their own local authorities and, in my view, they can no longer be administered effectively from Duleek or Navan," he said.

"These two new local authorities should have at least 12 councillors each to effectively represent the citizens, plus a directly-elected mayor who would be required to present a costed five-year programme to the councillors early on in his or her term of office," he said.

Senator Hannigan wants to see county managers replaced by chief executives with much more limited powers. "We need to bring democracy back to local government.  Under the present system, managers and their officials can effectively ignore elected representatives on many issues," he added.

"Under the system favoured by the Labour Party, chief executives will have to implement the programmes presented by directly-elected mayors once they have been approved by the council."

He has also proposed that elected representatives should have powers to seek accountability from public servants and the staff of State bodies and be given a consumer protection role in relation to privately-run services such as refuse collection, telecommunications, cable TV, private schools, local banks and private bus services.

"The role of elected representatives in looking after the interests of citizens is an important one and they need more powers for their watchdog role. Local councillors operate at the grassroots and need to be able to right wrongs and ensure fair play more effectively," Senator Hannigan said.