Speech by an Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, "Putting People First" - Local Government Reform Action Plan, Dublin Castle - Tuesday 16th October 2012

 

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Welcome everyone to Dublin Castle.

It is noteworthy that we are here in the former home of governance in Ireland to launch one of the most radical, ambitious and far reaching governance reform plans ever put forward by an Irish Government.

This Government was elected 18 months ago with a mandate to deliver on radical reform for our economy, public services and our politics. We will deliver and implement a sweeping series of reforms by the end of our term.

We recognised that change must always start with the political system. A system that has proved resistant to change over the years. Our first days in Office I cut costs by reducing Ministerial pay. By removing the entitlement to State cars we halved the cost of government transport.

We have since introduced new laws for the effective banning of corporate donations. We're cutting the number of TDs by 8 at the next election. We're linking female participation in politics to State funding of political parties. We're introducing new measures to increase Dáil sitting days.

Today we are delivering on our Programme for Government commitment to produce and implement a plan that will completely redesign and relaunch local governance in Ireland.

I have stated many times that local government needs radical change and reform in order to bring it into the 21st Century. This is a system of Government that has not fundamentally changed since the 19th century. As a result it has grown disjointed, fragmented, and inefficient as the modern State grew. As a consequence, the people have grown more distant and detached from a system of governance that is supposed to support them locally.

I am confident that this exciting plan launched here today will mark a whole new beginning for local government. A new start that will still respect local identities and traditions.

Local Government Structures
The streamlining of local councils down to 31, with each comprised of new municipal districts, is a dramatic reorganisation of governance arrangements.

The development of municipal districts, in replacement of all other forms of sub county bodies, will act as a platform for stronger, more efficient and more accountable local governance. The new municipal districts based around urban centres and their hinterland will continue to offer local leadership and services at a level closest to the people. But the duplication at county level will end. There will be a well defined set of responsibilities for County Council level and also for those devolved to municipal district level.

Local representatives will have a clearer mandate. They will have a stronger role in many issues which matter to the citizen - including economic and social development.

The reduction in the number of Councillors with a new cap of 950 nationally, the merger of certain county councils and the replacement of town councils with municipal districts is an appropriate approach given the large scale reforms required. The subsequent saving to local communities and to the national finances will also be of help in reducing our costs to more sustainable levels.

When implemented, these structural reforms will save 45 million euros every year. This is on top of savings of 830 million euro already achieved since 2008, and a reduction of almost 8,500 in employment in local government.

I want to pay tribute to the public servants who have made this happen, while continuing to deliver vital local services. Today, we are introducing more fundamental reforms which will challenge everyone - front-line staff, senior managers and political representatives. I look forward to their co-operation with the change programme which starts today.

Jobs
The document launched today is an extensive and thorough reform plan covering many aspects of local government operations and management.

However, one area that deserves specific mention today is the new enhanced role of local authorities will have in economic development and job creation within their areas.

As has been recently announced a new one stop shop for business support will be provided in each local authority through new Local Enterprise Offices. Working with Enterprise Ireland they'll offer a new range of supports and packages to help new and existing local small businesses.

This enhanced role will be supported by a new dedicated policy for economic development in each local authority, a new director of services for economic and community development, and a new economic development strategy which will form part of each City or County Development Plan.

It will be up to local authorities and local representatives to make the best out of these new responsibilities and deliver better services for economic development and jobs for their local communities.

Conclusion
Today marks only the beginning of this long overdue reform process. Minister Hogan will be charged with implementing many of these changes in time for the 2014 local elections.

This announcement is part of the Government's wider mission to reform.

We will continue to drive forward an ambitious programme of reform in the coming weeks and months.

And by the end of our term in office we will have delivered on our promise to overhaul our political system, economy and public services.

Ends

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