laois County Councillors this week dismissed a claim that local government reforms would incentiveise ‘high quality representation of the community’ as well as revised payments for councillors elected in 2014.
The maximum expenditure for the attendance of conferences will be significantly reduced to help improve the relevance of conferencse and attendance will be limited to conferences orgainsed by the proposed new amalgamated councillor representative body.
Cllr James Daly was the first to speak, following Dr Philip Byrne’s presentation to the members.
“That’s the biggest load of waffle, I’ve ever heard. It’s an insult to the way the council do their business and local democracy,” he said.
“I know this is to bring us more in line with Europea. but local authorities in those countries have more powers than we have. No one is telling us the extra responsibility that the councils will be given. In recent times, they have been depleting the powers of local authorities, water services, third level education grants and now the driving licences have all gone.” he said.
Cllr James Deegan said he was concerned what was going to happen at a regional level.
“We will be on the periphery of a region that has a population of 2.2million, we will be outvoted at crucial stages. Out of 22 representatives on the new Eastern-Midland Region, the Midlands will have just eight representatives.”
Portlaoise councillor, Catherine Fitzgerald said she had atteneded the launch of the reforms with the late Cllr Pat Bowe, last year.
“It was the greatest waste of a day,” she said, “we weren’t even allowed to speak at it. They say there has been a high level of consultation but I think that is the greatest insult to us. We were sent out forms to fill out and send back, that was the consultation.
While, Cllr Brendan Phelan said it was more like a nail in the coffin for local authorities rather than a review.
Cllr Phelan said the Taoiseach should have called a referendum to find out what the people wanted.
“The Taoiseach should have held a referendum and asked the people did they want a local authority or another level of administration.”
Cllr Willie Aird, described the reforms as “change for the sake of change.”
While Cllr John Joe Fennelly said that the greatest loser would be the general public.
All the councillors agreed that there had been nothing new in Dr Byrne’s presentation.