The evils of centralisation and the loss of power to local authorities was on the agenda at Portlaoise Town Council recently.
Cllr Caroline Dwane proposed a motion calling on the government not to relocate to Dublin decision-making on local grants. She asked that Portlaoise Town Council write to the Minister of Environment and Local Government to reverse the decision to centralise the funding to Dublin for alterations to council houses for disabled and elderly tenants.
“Up to now, the council got the allocation for alterations, such as ramps at doors, handrails, stair-lifts, disabled showers, but now instead of the council making the decision the decision is made in Dublin,” she said at County Hall.
“You can come in and talk to a council official who will know the area, the houses, the people themselves, but when it goes to Dublin they don’t know anything.
“Local democracy is being removed from local authority,” she warned.
Cllr Dwane’s Sinn Fein party colleague, Cllr Clare Spollen likened it to the ongoing medical card debacle, wherein decisions on local people are still being made by faceless office staff in Dublin.
“It’s going to Dublin and they know nothing about the area, it’s disgraceful,” said Cllr Spollen.
“They’re taking back the power to allocate small grants and it’s back to Dublin with the power,” said Cllr Jerry Lodge.
“The council staff know their applicants, but in Dublin there’s no personal contact whatsoever,” agreed Cllr Kathleen O’Brien.
Town manager, Michael Rainey revealed that last year the council received €103,000 for such house alterations as stair-lifts, which was used on council houses only.
Mr Rainey went on to say that the age limit for applicants was from 60 up to 66 years of age.
“We used to have discretion as to how we spent the money, but we don’t anymore,” the town manager informed the councillors.