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 Header Item Proposed Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Local Government Reform

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan] We will get one opportunity to do this properly and I am determined to work with the committee to get the balance right with regard to everyone's obligation to deal with this important issue.

The Deputy referred to NewERA in relation to investment in key infrastructural developments. During this term, we will bring forward legislation on water and proposals on broadband and energy. We are considering the sale of non-strategic State assets in order to provide investment in this area of activity. We said there is no reason why, over a five year period, we could not spend €7 billion from those resources and from private sector investment. That is still on track.

Local Government Reform

 43. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the status of his local government reform document; the timeframe for its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39000/12]

 56. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans to reform town councils; and if so, the criteria he will be using and the consultation that will take place with the public and with elected representatives. [39071/12]

 69. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the date on which he intends to publish new proposals for the reform of local government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39040/12]

 74. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the stage of his proposals for local government reform; when same will be made public; and the programme of consultation with the public and elected representative that will take place. [39076/12]

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 56, 69 and 74 together.

The Government’s broad policy approach in this area was set out in the programme for Government. In line with this, I intend to publish shortly a detailed policy statement and action programme for the reform of local government. The programme will set out a clear vision for the future of local government and proposals to achieve it, with particular focus on strengthening structures generally at regional, county and sub-county levels, expanding the role of local government, maximising operational and organisational efficiency and improving governance, oversight, local political and executive leadership and citizen engagement.

The reform programme will also reflect other work under way in regard to various aspects of local government, including local authority mergers, efficiency implementation, local government funding and alignment of local and community development with local government. The statement will outline implementation arrangements for the reform programme and certain issues which will be the subject of further policy work in the future.

Work on the development of these policy proposals has been informed by the extensive analysis and consultation that has taken place in regard to reform over the years. In recent times, I have received submissions from, and held discussions with, the local government representative associations, with individual local authority members and with interested groups. Some months ago, I also invited each individual councillor in the country to submit views to me on a number of issues relating to local government reform.

Publication of the policy statement will provide a further opportunity for public comment and input ahead of the development of legislation to provide for these reform measures and this legislation will be brought forward in 2013, in time for the local elections in 2014. The content of local government reform legislation will be a matter for Government decision in the first instance and will, of course, be the subject of Oireachtas scrutiny and debate in the normal way. In due course, I will be letting the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht know the exact details of this legislation and of the implementation of our policy statement.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I thank the Minister for his answer. When he brings forward his local government reform package I hope he does not simply seek to grab headlines and score political points by cutting councils and councillors for the sake of it. I am aware of the need for streamlining in this area. We cannot have, for example, up to 115 representatives in one county. I am also aware that local authorities have lost many of their functions over the years. They are no longer responsible for primary roads or waste collection and the Government now proposes to remove their responsibility for water services. Lack of funding has led to the deterioration or curtailment of other services, such as library facilities and fire services.

I hope whatever reform package the Minister introduces will give more power to local authorities. Whether in welfare, education or health, local authorities must be given more leverage to become better functioning authorities, which they can do with a proper reform package.

There has been much debate by the Minister's colleagues in Government about the performance of the Croke Park agreement and how each Department has effected the required savings. What savings has the Minister achieved in his Department, within the parameters of the agreement? Can he keep us constantly updated on such savings and let us know the savings he envisages in the coming years until a new agreement is put in place?

It is only right that Ministers begin to account for the management of their Departments. It is too easy to appeal, in soundbites, to certain sections of their own supporters and say that savings cannot be effected when pay is not on the table.

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I am glad Deputy Cowen has decided to acknowledge that the decisions I make regarding my Department are not made for any populist reasons.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath That is for sure.


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