Labour is committed to introducing much stronger local government, so decisions and accountability for decisions is brought closer to the people affected by those decisions.
Labour will create a Commission on Local Government and will implement its recommendations. The Commission will be tasked to identify government functions that would be better delivered at local level rather than centrally, and to identity how local government can be independently financed with its own earmarked streams of tax revenue to cover all of its core functions. The Commission will also consider directly-elected mayors. Ireland is effectively the most centralised country in the EU, with the weakest system of local government. European norms provide real decision making and control over money closer to the people, and this is Labour’s vision for stronger local government in Ireland too. Services delivered at local level are often better value for money and can be adapted to different circumstances, compared to one-size-fits-all national policies.
Labour will also publish and implement a strategy for local government to be directly and independently funded through taxation and other sources, allowing the development of greater local control over local issues, including community-level direct control of funds for their areas
Labour will implement a strategy to strengthen communities that have been effectively abandoned by successive governments, including deeply disadvantaged urban areas and rural towns and villages where most commercial activity has ceased. Labour will fund urban regeneration and development projects, and foster community bodies and social enterprises focused on community development work.
Labour will legislate to create a clear division of powers between local and central government, such as for local development plans, informed by the principle that decisions should always be taken as close as possible to the people affected by those decisions (“subsidiarity”). This will provide for elected local councils to make certain categories of decisions that cannot be over-ridden by central government without the express agreement of the Dáil.
Labour will re-establish town councils for all towns with a population of 5,000 or more, and give them strong powers to bring decision-making to local level. Labour will encourage the roll out of more participatory budgeting by Town Councils. Labour will create a legal definition of town to underpin this approach and to promote better urban planning. Labour will recognise rural districts as part of the county council structure.
Labour will provide a pathway to city status for large towns like Drogheda, Dundalk and Swords, so that each has a development strategy to grow coherently towards a population of 50,000 or more at which point city status will be granted. The development plans will include ensuring transport infrastructure, schools and other public services, and avoiding excessive urban sprawl.
Labour will demand that a larger portion of your local council budget is allocated to the basics, and ensure local councils are meeting key targets.
Labour will insist that local councils provide services such as waste collection and road repairs directly rather than contracting them out to private operators. We will replace the practice of side-by-side waste services with tendering for market access to localities.