Click on individual item for full story | News Archive
Green Party Communications | 17.09.2012 | Back to News | News Archive
Community participation and decision making should be central to local government reform – Greens
City and County Development Boards need greater statutory powers to drive economic development at a local level.
An enhanced role for communities in local decision making and participation in local governance structures could strengthen the work of Local Authorities, leading to greater accountability, enhance co-operation between voluntary and statutory agencies and strengthen the relationship between Local Authorities, elected members and the communities they represent, according to the Green Party.
The Green Party is proposing an enhanced, statutory function for City and County Development Boards, proper resourcing of the community, enterprise, culture and arts sections of Local Authorities and a complete review of policy committees of councils that would include adequate resourcing of the community and voluntary sector to take part in policy forming committees of councils.
"Since its introduction in 2001, Better Local Government has failed to deliver desired outcomes; where resistance from councillors and, in some cases, indifference at a corporate level has excluded the community voice in local decision making," said Party Spokesperson for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Cllr Malcolm Noonan. "Councillors were paranoid about having their power base undermined, when in fact it could have been enhanced if the process had been embraced. Similarly City and County Development Boards (CCDB) which were established to be the economic, social and cultural drivers of a municipality, in many cases became talking shops with no statutory function and little or no obligation on agencies to follow up on the actions of CCDB strategies," he said.
"The Green Party welcomes the fact that Minister Hogan is proposing to give an economic role to Local Authorities, but he must go further in his proposed reforms by creating regional elected structures where the development of a region becomes a priority and counties in a region work together. City and County Development Boards could play a role in economic, social and environmental enhancement but they need to be put on a statutory footing and adequately resourced to carry out their work," he continued.
He cited some success stories from CCDB particularly in areas of heritage, integration and the arts where co-operation with outside agencies had brought about very successful projects and policies in some counties with limited resources. "However much of the experience around the country has seen a lack of engagement from some of the statutory and economic interests. This must be turned around. It is unfair to ask the community and voluntary sector to play an active part in local development when they are not seeing engagement from other sectors. Capacity building at the outset of new local development structures will be vital if they are to succeed," he stated.
Cllr Noonan said that the reform process should be used as an opportunity to enhance and strengthen the community and local development role of Local Authorities, particularly if they are losing key services such as water service provision. "Minister Hogan has a unique opportunity to radically reform local government, by devolving power to where it is most effective and, in the spirit of Local Agenda 21, have a meaningful impact on the communities that they serve," he concluded.