Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen has said the grave challenges of the current crisis facing the country demand fresh thinking and real change in how politics works.
Deputy Cowen has been addressing the Government’s proposals to reform Local Government, Putting People First, in a speech to the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland in Cork today.
Deputy Cowen commented: “The Government’s proposals on local government reform are extremely vague. When Minister Hogan published Putting People First last October I described it as a wasted opportunity. It is actually a cynical exercise in cost-cutting that will do nothing to enhance local democracy and empower communities.
“We have not seen proposals for real powers to be decentralised in line with European norms. Instead we have the weakest local government in the Western World with severely limited powers and deeply restricted fiscal independence. Now is the time for all political parties to pursue real change that reaches from the corridors of cabinet power to the community hall.
“Our vision for the future of local democracy is a new Community Council Model fairly distributed across the country that will bring government closer to the citizen. We want to empower communities and given them a real say in planning issues and the ability to tackle local concerns. We believe greater leadership through Directly Elected Mayors replacing County Managers has the potential to take the initiative and cut through the bureaucratic problems that plague administration and prioritise new ideas in shaping our communities. Councils need real power over where money is spent and competitive funding pots where local groups can apply for central funds.
“What I think a lot of people across the country want to see is a more flexible, responsive local government system that provides value for money. Ensuring we have a structure that supports businesses, promotes job creation and really delivers for communities is achievable if the political system has the vision and the will to see it through.”
A copy of Barry Cowen’s address to the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) can also be found here