Local Government Reform Act 2014

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The Local Government Reform Act 2014 is an act of the Oireachtas providing for a major restructuring of local government in the Republic of Ireland with effect from the 2014 local elections. It merged some first-tier county and city councils, abolished all second-tier town and borough councils, and created a new second tier of municipal districts covering rural as well as urban areas. It also provided for a plebiscite on whether to create a directly-elected executive Mayor of the Dublin Region (distinct from the existing ceremonial office of Lord Mayor of Dublin city) although this provision was not activated. The act was introduced as a bill on 15 October 2013 by Phil Hogan, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and signed into law on 27 January 2014 by Michael D. Higgins, the President.[1] Most of its provisions came into force on 1 June 2014.[2]

Background[edit]

The Local Government Act 2001 replaced the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 as the main basis for local government in the state. It redesignated the "urban district councils" and "town commissioners" as "town councils" without substantive changes to their existing powers, which were relatively slight for urban districts and even more so for commissioners. Various plans for more fundamental changes to the local government system have been made both before and after the 2001 Act. After the 2011 general election, the new Fine Gael–Labour coalition's programme for government promised reform and rationalisation of local authorities, both to enhance democratic accountability and local power, and as part of a broader range of spending cuts in response to the state's ongoing financial crisis.[3] In 2011 and 2012, local commissions recommended the mergers of three pairs of neighbouring first-tier local authorities: North and South Tipperary, Waterford City and County, and Limerick City and County. In 2012, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government published Putting People First — Action Programme for Effective Local Government, which outlined the changes planned for the prospective bill.[4] The minister established a boundary commission to define local electoral areas for the 2014 election, including the Action Programme within its terms of reference.[5]

Provision for directly-elected mayors was included in the 2001 Act but repealed in 2003 without having been invoked.[6] The idea of an executive mayor for Greater Dublin was given impetus by the establishment of a Mayor of London, and was promoted by the Green Party in the 2007–11 government. A bill to that effect was introduced in 2010, lapsing when the Dáil was dissolved for the 2011 election.[7]

Provisions of the act[edit]

The main provisions are summarised in the Act's long title:

An Act to make further and better provision in relation to local government and, in particular, to amalgamate Limerick County Council with Limerick City Council, Waterford County Council with Waterford City Council and North Tipperary County Council with South Tipperary County Council, to provide for the position of chief executive in relation to each local authority, to dissolve town councils, to make provision for municipal districts, to assign additional reserved functions to local authority members, to dissolve County Development Boards and City Development Boards and make provision for the establishment of Local Community Development Committees, for planning and oversight of Local and Community Development Programmes, to provide for an increased role for local authorities in economic development and enterprise support, to amend the Local Government Act 1991 and provide for regional assemblies, to enable (subject to certain preconditions) a plebiscite to be held in the administrative areas of the local authorities in the Dublin area in respect of a directly elected mayor for that area and for those and other purposes to amend the Local Government Acts 1925 to 2013, the Local Elections Acts 1974 to 2012 and other enactments relating to elections, the Housing Acts 1966 to 2013 and the Planning and Development Act 2000, to amend other Acts in connection with the foregoing matters, to amend section 20 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997 and to provide for related matters.

Details[edit]

The merged North Tipperary and South Tipperary will be a county called Tipperary, restoring the county's administrative unity for the first time since 1838. The merged Limerick and Waterford areas will be designated a "county and city", otherwise equivalent to a county.

Except in the Dublin Region, all counties (including the two "counties and cities") will be subdivided into two or more second-tier units called "municipal districts". The districts which include Limerick and Waterford cities will be "metropolitan districts" and those including an existing borough will be "borough districts"; both names conferring the right for the chairperson of the district council to be called "mayor". Each district will comprise one (or, occasionally, more than one) local electoral area; the district councillors will also serve as the area's county councillors.

The position of "county/city manager" will be replaced by that of "chief executive". Existing managers will be the initial chief executives, with county/city councils gaining the power to veto subsequent appointments and to remove a chief executive for "stated misbehaviour".[8][9]

Local Authority details[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Municipal district (Ireland) § Areas.
County Local Authority[10] Members[11] Change
Carlow Carlow County Council 18 −3
Cavan Cavan County Council 18 –7
Clare Clare County Council 28 –4
Cork Cork County Council 55 +7
Donegal Donegal County Council 37 +8
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council 40 +12
Fingal Fingal County Council 40 +16
Galway Galway County Council 39 +9
Kerry Kerry County Council 33 +6
Kildare Kildare County Council 40 +15
Kilkenny Kilkenny County Council 24 –2
Laois Laois County Council 19 –6
Leitrim Leitrim County Council 18 –4
Longford Longford County Council 18 –3
Louth Louth County Council 29 +3
Mayo Mayo County Council 30 –1
Meath Meath County Council 40 +11
Monaghan Monaghan County Council 18 –2
Offaly Offaly County Council 19 –2
Roscommon Roscommon County Council 18 –8
Sligo Sligo County Council 18 –7
South Dublin South Dublin County Council 40 +14
Tipperary Tipperary County Council 40 –7[n 1]
Westmeath Westmeath County Council 20 –3
Wexford Wexford County Council 34 +13
Wicklow Wicklow County Council 32 +8
City Local Authority Members Change
Cork Cork City Council 31
Dublin Dublin City Council 63 +11
Galway Galway City Council 18 +3
City and County Local Authority Members Change
Limerick city and County Limerick Limerick City and County Council 40 –5[n 2]
Waterford city and County Waterford Waterford City and County Council 32 –6[n 3]
  1. ^ Based on total members of North Tipperary and South Tipperary county councils.
  2. ^ Based on total members of Limerick City and Limerick County councils.
  3. ^ Based on total members of Waterford City and Waterford County councils.

Debate[edit]

The Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI), which represents the town and borough councils due to be abolished under the act, objected to the bill.[12] It later published guidelines for the transition to the new structure.[13] In March 2014, after the AMAI decided not to challenge the Act in court, another group called Former Local Authority Members Éire (FLAME) was founded by members of abolished councils.[14]

The bill was introduced as the Local Government Bill 2013; the word "Reform" was inserted into its title at committee stage by the select subcommittee on the Environment, Community and Local Government.[15]

On 28 April 2014, FLAME and TD Mattie McGrath applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop the local elections on 23 May 2014, arguing the 2014 Act is null as it was passed without a vote, and that it violates Article 28A of the Constitution and the European Charter of Local Self-Government.[16]

Proposed directly-elected mayor for the Dublin Metropolitan Area[edit]

The Act specified several stages for the creation of a "Directly Elected Mayor for Dublin Metropolitan Area", covering the four areas within the former Dublin County, namely the city of Dublin and the counties of South Dublin, Fingal, and Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown.[17]

  • the four local authorities' councils would send delegates to a forum to agree a draft plan for the mayor's functions.[18] This forum in fact met in April 2013, before the bill had been introduced; after public consultations, the resulting report was submitted in late 2013, before the bill became law.[19][20][21] The Act retrospectively sanctioned these steps.[21][22]
  • the Minister would approve the draft.[23] This happened in March 2014.[21]
  • each council had to vote to put the draft to a plebiscite[24] Fingal County Council voted 16–6 to reject it on 31 March 2014, obviating the need for subsequent steps.[25][26] The other three councils voted for the plebiscite.[25][26]

The following steps provided for under the Act will not happen because of Fingal's rejection:[25][26]

  • at the plebiscite, a majority of local election voters across the four authorities' areas would have to approve the proposal[27]
  • the government would choose to implement the proposal, and the Oireachtas would enact new legislation to effect this.[28]
  • an election would be held, under the terms of the new legislation, for the post of mayor.[29]

Those supporting and opposing the original plan have called on the Minister to revise the proposal.[26] On 10 June 2014 he told the Dáil, "The Government remains committed to the notion of a plebiscite for a directly elected mayor for Dublin, and it appears that it is down to me to come up with a fresh initiative in view of the failure of the forum to achieve that consensus."[30]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Legislation Signed by President Higgins". Office of the President. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "S.I. No. 215/2014 - Local Government Reform Act 2014 (2014 Establishment Day) Order 2014.". Irish Statute Book. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Reforming local government". Programme for Government. merrionstreet.ie. 25 February 2011. p. 26. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Putting People First — Action Programme for Effective Local Government". Local Government. Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Terms of Reference". Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee 2012/2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Quinlivan, Aodh (24 May 2014). "The election that wasn’t: how the plan for a directly elected Dublin mayor could be revived". The Irish Times. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010". Bills 1997–2013. Oireachtas. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Bill to slash town councils and halve number of councillors". The Irish Times. 17 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Local Government Act 2014, §§144–146
  10. ^ Local Government Act 2014, §§12
  11. ^ Local Government Act 2014, §§15
  12. ^ "‘Town Councils should be reformed not abolished’ - AMAI". Donegal Democrat. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Reorganisation Advisory Group (31 July 2013). "Action Programme for Effective Local Government: Transition Framework for Sub-County/Municipal Reorganisation". Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Judicial review sought over local authority abolitions -". The Nationalist (Clonmel). 26 March 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Select Sub-Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government (3 December 2013). "Local Government Bill 2013: Committee Stage". Committee debates. Oireachtas. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  16. ^ McConnell, Daniel (1 May 2014). "Mattie McGrath joins councillors in High Court bid to halt election". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  17. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014, Part 11
  18. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §65
  19. ^ "Directly Elected Mayor for Dublin". Public consultation on the Directly-Elected Mayor for Dublin. mayor4dublin.ie. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  20. ^ "A Directly Elected Mayor for Dublin". Dublin City Council. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c "Proposed plebiscite for a directly elected mayor for the Dublin metropolitan area" (Press release). Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  22. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §71
  23. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §§65(2),66(1)
  24. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §66
  25. ^ a b c "Fingal cllrs vote against public poll for mayor". RTÉ.ie. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  26. ^ a b c d Cotter, Eimear; Joyce Fegan (31 March 2014). "Fingal Councillors scupper plans for directly-elected Dublin mayor". Irish Independent. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  27. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §§67–68
  28. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §69(a)
  29. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014 §§64,65
  30. ^ "Topical Issue Debate Local Government Reform". Dáil Éireann debates. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 

External links[edit]