Local Govt Reform still unclear – says Clon Cllr

10th January 2014
By Aidan Pendlebur – A Town Councillor on Clonakilty Town Council

Last week I informed my supporters and the people of my locality that I would not run in the May elections. While many seemed unsurprised, given my resentment towards the current Irish political landscape, the real reason was my inability to be a part of what’s to come.

There are currently Councillors and eager faced activists the length and breadth of the country declaring their intention to run in May’s local elections, and the question I have to ask is how?

How does one declare themselves running for a position that as of yet has not been clearly defined, in charge of a budget not clearly set, wielding powers not clearly known. It is a blind interview; where the employee’s do not understand the position they need to fill and the applicants do not understand the role for which they have applied. It was the great cunning of Phil Hogan’s Local Government Reform document; the negatives were set in stone, the positives lost in terminology that were open to positive interpretation, interpretation that will without doubt be proved horribly overreaching for those hopeful for better.

Here are some things we do know. The average Urban District Council (UDC) had 9 Councillors to help run a townland in conjunction with the Executive, it was a give and take relationship that required both sides to work together to ensure every cent was made work its hardest for that town. Come May there will be nine elected officials covering an area roughly 100 kilometres across. They will be expected to cover the workloads of five Town Councils and it is a system that we are told will work. The basis of this belief is currently not known and with repeated querying, Minister Hogan has made no attempt to justify where his confidence that it will work has come from either. The figure of €6 million is what we shall save; once again Minister Hogan has yet to disclose where this number appeared from or why he decided to provide it, just another line floating in a pond of misinformation and insincerity.

These questions and many others have been pleaded repeatedly by Councillors to Minister Hogan; his silence is deafening, he will provide justification to know one.

I could continue on tearing down the Local Government Reform document which has befell all those who live in rural Ireland, but we are at a point where debate on the matter is near death. We now in West Cork head into (not so) local elections in May, where we the public will be electing candidates to responsibilities that they are just slightly less clueless about than ourselves.

There can be only two reasons to justify that we are in this situation with Local Government Reform; a purposeful vagueness to policy to ensure the electorate did not shout too loudly as it passed through the Daíl, a (justified) fear that when the public became aware of the democratic monstrosity that it is it would become too unpopular to pass. The second that Minister Hogan and crew genuinely were making this up as they went along, making broad sweeping statements of democratic change while the potholes of inadequacy were filled haphazardly as they met them.

Either way, what we face in May is the scenario of the blind leading the blind down one of the few political roads that didn’t need much fixing in the first place, and it’ll take us a long time to come back from that.

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