Tuesday, October 16 14:14:17
The most radical reform of the local government system in over 100 years will save the Exchequer over E420m, according to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan.
Entitled "Putting People First", the Programme is part of the Government's overall reform of the political system.
The reforms include the abolition off all 80 town councils, a 40pc reduction in the number of councillors, and a cut in the number of regional authorities from ten to three.
Over the next two years, there will be a reduction in the number of local authorities from 114 to 31 City and County Councils with integrated areas called 'Municipal Districts'.
Council seats will be reduced from 1,627 to no more than 950. The members elected at local level will also represent the district at county level.
At regional level, 3 new assemblies will replace the current 10 regional authorities and assemblies.
There will be a rebalancing of representation nationally and more equality of representation between local electoral areas within counties.
Local authority managers are to be replaced by chief executives, who will be responsible to the elected members in the same way as the chief executive of a company is to a board of directors.
The Government's document says that the role and functions of elected councils will be widened, with a greater involvement in economic development and enterprise support.
Minister Hogan said: "Putting People First sets to reform the system of local government from structures that are largely unchanged since 1898; to modernise the approaches to ensure more is delivered to the citizen and to build confidence in the Local Government Sector by making it more accountable to the people it serves. This document represents fundamental re-imagining of the system and it sees local government leading economic, social and community development, as well as delivering efficient services that are good value. The overall programme will save the taxpayer over E420 million."
The targeted voluntary redundancy scheme should see an estimated saving of E45m per year.
Minister Hogan has said that local authorities will have responsibility for the property tax and the amount that will be levied in each district.
Speaking on RTE's News at One, the minister said the Government remains committed to the principle that the money from the tax will be ring-fenced for use by local authorities.
He said the Revenue Commissioners will still collect the money, but local authorities will have discretion over the imposition of the new tax and the amount that will be charged.
Minister Hogan also confirmed that the power of councillors to overturn the decisions of planning officials will be abolished.