Unions call for enhanced local authority powers as Ireland ranks last in EU local democracy index

Trade unions representing over 30,000 local council workers today (Wednesday, 27th March) launched a campaign for substantially increased revenue and funding powers for local authorities, and published research that shows Irish councils have less autonomy from central government than their counterparts in 39 European countries.

  • A decade of austerity, which cut budgets and slashed council staffing by a quarter;
  • The centralisation of services like water, driving licences and higher education grants;
  • The privatisation of services like refuse collection and housing; and
  • Excessive executive direction and new management processes that have increased bureaucratic powers at the expense of political representatives.

Legislative changes to facilitate directly-elected mayors;

The return and expansion of the town council system, which was abolished in 2014;

Increased revenue and funding powers, with parallel systems of accountability and transparency, to move the percentage of local authority-managed public spending towards the European average;

An immediate end to the outsourcing of council housing maintenance and a medium-term shift to a new local authority-led public housing model;

Stronger regulation of the waste sector to ensure that every household has access to an affordable waste disposal service, as a precursor to the reintroduction of improved public provision;

A constitutional referendum on the right to water, which should ensure that water and waste water services remain in public ownership and control;

Investment in local authority environmental and sustainable energy infrastructure and staff, to facilitate the maximum use of the SEAI ‘Better Energy’ programme.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Mary Murphy of Maynooth University, said: “Local government can be an important source of economic development and local jobs, while local authorities across Europe are playing a leading role in transitioning to low-carbon renewable energy. We need to rebuild Irish local democracy and citizen participation to build strong local economies based on good jobs and decent incomes, and to address climate change.”

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