Wednesday, 2 March 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
229. Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will amend the Local Government Act to enable expanding towns with populations under 7,000 to establish town councils (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7224/05]
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Roche): The Local Government Act 2001 was designed to modernise the legislative framework, support community involvement with local authorities in a more participative local democracy and underpin generally the programme of local government renewal, including the position of county and city councils as the primary units of local government. The Act takes account of the recommendations of the 1996 report of the reorganisation commission towards cohesive local government — town and county — regarding improved accessibility, interaction and linkages for non-local authority towns within county council areas. The commission’s report stated that the existence of town authorities in a number of small towns is not in itself a premise on which to base a case for the creation of new authorities in all or any other towns of that size and concluded, inter alia, that the widespread creation of new town authorities was neither warranted nor feasible. The report recommended that only towns with a population of 7,500 or over be eligible for consideration. In line with this, section 185 of that Act provides, inter alia, that qualified electors of a town having a population of at least 7,500 as ascertained at the last preceding census or such other figure as the Minister may from time to time prescribe by regulations, and not having a town council, may make a proposal for the establishment of such a council.
The local government modernisation programme has seen local authorities respond to the need to decentralise service delivery through the provision of local area offices, substantial investment in e-local government with the use of on-line technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery, and the production of local authority customer action plans. In addition, the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that a local area plan must be prepared for all towns with a population of more than 2,000 that are not already planning authorities, thus ensuring that the citizens of smaller towns have a full opportunity to participate in the process of developing strategic priorities for their local areas.
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