The Green Party warns that without devolving more power to local authorities, the initiative is just smoke and mirrors.
The Party has given a cautious welcome to the Minister of State for Local Government John Paul Phelan’s proposal to roll out directly elected mayors to every local authority in the State.
In welcoming the proposal, the Party has said that without devolving more autonomy and power to local government and in particular to elected members and citizens, then the proposals were just more smoke and mirrors.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan, Green Party Spokesperson for Local Government, said:
“While we welcome proposed plebiscites for directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Waterford with a possible roll out to other municipalities for the 2024 local elections, we believe that unless the Minister and Government is serious about devolving true autonomy to local councils, then the mayoral elections will be nothing more than a local celebrity contest.”
The Green Party is proposing that the functions of local government should be expanded to include responsibilities for transport service provision and mobility, public banking, autonomous powers in housing delivery and enhanced responsibilities towards climate mitigation and adaptation as well as the establishment of dedicated EU Policy Project units in each Local Authority area.
“There were good measures in the last local government reform process; namely the enhanced role for local councils in culture and the arts. However structures for increased public participation in local decision making have been an abject failure and if anything have reduced accountability of Local Authorities to the people they serve. People should have a direct role in shaping annual budgets and where funding is spent. City and County Managers wield far too much power and this proposal may not necessarily change that dynamic,” said Cllr Noonan.
“I have no doubt but that Minister Phelan is committed to a strong future for local government in Ireland but past tinkering has reduced the political role to one of rubber stamping the agenda of unelected officials and people feel less and less connected to the decision making process. Directly elected mayors are an important first step towards changing that narrative but his proposals are weak and don’t go far enough to deliver meaningful change in how local government can better serve the people,” concluded Cllr Noonan.
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