Local communities should be given more decision-making powers to halt the decline of town centres. That is the view of the Green Party in response to a new report published this morning by the Society of Chartered Surveyors.
The report focused on 200 towns with populations of between 1,500 and 10,000 and claims the abolition of town councils, along with other factors such as increased costs and high vacancy rates, have contributed to a “perfect storm” for regional towns.
The ability of local authorities to influence the direction of regional development has reduced dramatically since the abolition of town councils in 2014, according to the study. In the absence of town councils, the report urges the setting up of an Irish Towns Partnership in order to provide local leadership and calls for a proactive approach to restore buildings and tackle the problem of vacant buildings.
Green Party Spokesperson for Local Government, Regional Development, and Rural Affairs, Cllr Malcolm Noonan: “The Green Party has always strongly believed in the central role of local government and its ability to be a force for good in people’s daily lives. We opposed the abolition of town councils in 2014 and this report brings home the negative consequences of getting rid of them.
“The report also echoes many of the same calls we have been making since their abolition. We believe town councils should be restored as new district councils that encompass the rural hinterland of each town in such a way that every rural area is under a district council.
“We also believe that a regional tier of government should be established with significant powers to co-ordinate transport, planning, and other services between counties. Many of the functions of central government would be better delegated to local and regional authorities where a more intimate understanding of the needs of the local area exists.”
Green Party Spokesperson for Political Reform, Oliver Moran: “The experience of towns like Westport and Clonakilty, where local communities set up their own institutions after the abolition of town councils, shows the value that local decision-making has. Those towns have continued to flourish while others have slowly been left behind.
“The decision to do away with town councils in 2014 is an example of knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing. The true value of local democracy cannot be measured by a headcount of councillors. It’s about local knowledge, imagination, and the passion people have for the place they live. That can never be replaced by the balance sheet, and rural towns are now reaping the cost of that short-sightedness in central government.”
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