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Councillors challenge local government reforms

Councillors challenge local government reforms

Áine Ryan


CROSS-PARTY condemnation of the proposed radical reforms of local government was the main mantra at yesterday’s county council meeting in Castlebar. Veteran Fianna Fáil Cllr Margaret Adams made it clear when she laid down the gauntlet about Westport’s outstanding record of successes supported by its town council.
“As an experienced councillor – with 38 years service as a town councillor – I view this move as a retrograde step for Castlebar, Ballina and Westport. I can outline here a long list of projects that came to fruition in Westport because of the existence of our proactive town council – among them are the Multi-Agency Task Force that brought industry to the town, the Amenity Grants, the Town Hall Project, Smarter Travel, youth facilities and our recent award as Best Place to Live in Ireland,” Cllr Adams said.
She continued: “I deplore this development and the actions of Fine Gael and Labour Party councillors who did not challenge Minister [for the Environment] Phil Hogan at the recent AMAI (Municipal Authorities of Ireland) meeting.”
Speaking also Fine Gael’s Cllr Peter Flynn conceded there was obvious need for local authority reform but that Minister Hogan had left councillors ‘in limbo’ regarding his report for the next 18 months.
“Mayo’s three town councils, by and large, are self-funding and reasonably efficient. However, Mayo County Council has not addressed its inefficiencies on some issues which go back to 2008,” Cllr Flynn said.
Independent Cllr Gerry Ginty said: “If this government wanted to save money there are lots of other ways. They could cut the expenses of councillors and officials and cut out the junkets. If Minister Phil Hogan, and other TDs, take a 58 per cent cut in their salaries, they can then tell me I don’t have a right to be a councillor.”
Taking a supportive position, Cllr Richard Finn said: “We all represent nice places – Claremorris, Swinford, Ballinrobe, Charlestown – and these small towns are on their knees and are not getting sufficient support from Mayo County Council.”
Speaking earlier, Peter Hynes, the County Manager, noted that the proposed paper would lead to ‘the most radical reform of local government’.
Mr Hynes said: “To date the local authorities have had the biggest proportionate reduction in jobs. It is now time for consolidation so that the level of services  required can be maintained.”

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