At last Monday’s council meeting, Dr Philip Byrne, Senior Local Government Specialist with the Institute of Public Administration gave a presentation to the councillors on local government reforms which will see the number councillors reduced after the next local election.
The number of city and county councils will be reduced from 114 to 31, and the number of council seats reduced to 950 from 1,627.
Under the local government reforms, launched last October by the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, a new model of municpal governance within counties will be introduced.
Dr Byrne explained that there will be a “unified county-wide administration with no duplication of functions between district and county levels and that councillors will be simultaneously elected to Municipal Districts and the County Councils, instead of seperate town and county councils.”
He also explained to councillors that the maximum expenditure for the attending conferences will be significantly reduced to help improve the relevance of conferences.
The Municipal districts will be drawn up on the basis of a review by an independent statutory commitee, based on principal towns and surrounding hinterland.
The new reforms claim that current weaknesses will be removed such as a town council’s lack of powers and resources, town and county duplication and boundary issues will be removed.
The functions of the elected members at district level will involve policy/regulatory role in areas such as planning, roads, traffic, community and environmental services, recreation and amenity matter, civic functions, citizen and community engagement.
The eight regional authorities and two regional assemblies will be reduced to three regional assemblies. Laois, which is currently part of the Border, Midland and Western Assembly, will be amalgamated with the counties of Leinster, other than Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, to form the Eastern-Midland Region.
The structural reforms at regional, county and sub-county level are anticiptated to realise net savings of €40-45million.
Minister Hogan, the Minister responsible for local government reform, will visit Laois this Friday, when he officially opens the Clonaslee Integrated Constructed Wetlands in Clonaslee.