councillors want the Environment Minister Phil Hogan to leave Laois with its five Local Electoral Areas, in his reform of local government.
Sinn Fein Cllr Alan Hand raised the motion last week at Laois County Council, saying Laois will not be properly represented.
“In the swipe of a pen, 100 years of representation will be gone. A lot of county councillors work other jobs, and they have a huge area to cover, in Borris-in-Ossory for example.
“For the best part they do their duties in their spare time, all of a sudden they will have a huge area, in my view it’s not good for local democracy,” Cllr Hand said.
The Sinn Féin TD was supported by Fianna Fáil Cllr Brendan Phelan from Borris-in-Ossory, who said that Laois’ 25 councillors will be cut to 18.
“No matter what party, everyone knows the amount of work each cllr does to try and represent the people. The last thing they do is go in and fight for more expenses. Those expenses are determined by national government, if something could be looked at, to leave the number of representatives and take a hit there,” he said.
Cathaoirleach, Cllr Paul Mitchell said their jobs would become full time.
“We are already going to lose two town councils, this is something we have to try and fight for, to hold on to as many councillors as possible,” he said.
Fine Gael Cllr Willie Aird howwever said he welcomed reform.
“I feel this is something that needs to be looked at. We are full time councillors. When I started, no-one was full time because you only got £15 a meeting. Back in the 1800’s it wasn’t a job, it was a matter of giving back to the community, that’s why you stood. It suits some people to forget that every five years, you have the opportunity to decide not to put your name before the people, you have to be man enough to stand up,” he said.
Minister Hogan’s radical reform, ‘Putting People First’, will be complete before the 2014 local elections. Town councils and county councils will be replaced with Municipal Districts, cutting councillor numbers by 40 per cent. They will be responsible for the entire county, not just their local electoral area.
114 local authorities will be cut to 32 City and County Councils. They will be funded by local property taxes, at a rate to be set by each council and collected by the Revenue Service. These reforms are expected to save €45 million over the next four years.