Cork mayors seek meeting with Phil Hogan over proposal to abolish town councils

Tuesday 15 January 2013 16.54
Phil Hogan proposes the abolition of town councils
Phil Hogan proposes the abolition of town councils

Co Cork's 12 mayors are to seek a meeting with Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to voice their concerns over his plans to abolish town councils.

The decision to send the mayoral delegation was reached at a specially convened meeting of 54 councillors from ten of the 12 local town councils held in Midleton last night.

Midleton Town Mayor Ted Murphy said the minister's proposal to abolish all 80 of the country's town councils, announced last October, is undemocratic.

He said his own town council is prepared to mount a legal challenge if the Association of Municipal Authorities, the representative body for the country's town councils, fails to do so.

The association is due to discuss any potential legal challenge at its AGM next month.

Mr Hogan said his planned reform of town councils aims to devolve more powers and functions to them from central Government.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Hogan said these would include powers relating to planning, roads, traffic, housing and environmental services.

The minister said councils would be given more autonomy over their priorities, now that they have a source of local funding in the property tax.

Mr Hogan said legislation will be required this year to give these powers to councils.

He also said the boundaries for the new municipal and council districts will be known by the end of May.

He said he planned to engage with the representative bodies of town councils, and supports the principal of subsidiarity.

"What I'm trying to do is the opposite of what they're saying. I'm trying to give more power and responsibility to fewer of them. Nevertheless, we will have more powers for councillors at local level that will be elected in 2014.

"I think the more power we can devolve to that level, the more satisfied the newly elected councillors will be in 2014," he said.

Meanwhile, President of the AMAI Willie Callaghan said he is disappointed that representatives of the association were not invited to last night's meeting in Midleton.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Callaghan said the association will take legal advice once the Bill is published, but this was not yet an option.

He said he was surprised a town or county manager would allow taxpayers' money to be used for taking a case.

The AMAI is not happy that Ireland could lose over 700 councillors across the country with the stroke of a pen, he said, and called on Mr Hogan to clarify his plans.