Town Councils to be abolished

Longford and Granard Town Councils are to be abolished, under sweeping new reforms for Local Government announced yesterday (Tuesday) by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Longford and Granard Town Councils are to be abolished, under sweeping new reforms for Local Government announced yesterday (Tuesday) by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Town councils will be replaced by a system of municipal governance integrating town and county governance, the Minister said. All 18 seats for councillors serving Longford and Granard town councils will be scrapped. There is also likely to be a reduction in County Council seats.

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the reduction in the number of councillors, the merger of councils and the replacement of town councils with Municipal Districts is a “necessary reform designed to increase the efficiency of local government and will ensure that taxpayers’ money is translated into the services people expect and deserve in their local areas.”

Minister Hogan staged a meeting with County and Town Mayors in Dublin yesterday to outline the proposals after he brought them to cabinet. Granard Town Mayor Cllr John Maguire (FG) was the only representative of Longford’s three mayors to attend this meeting.

County Longford Mayor Sean Farrell (FG), who couldn’t attend due to the short notice, told the Leader he agreed with Minister Hogan’s plans. Cllr Farrell has been a vocal critic of town councils in the past, landing himself in hot water with councillors after describing them as “talking shops” last February.

However, his party colleague and Longford Town Mayor, Councillor Peggy Nolan has described the plans as “retrograde” and a total “sell-out” by the minister. She believes the changes will reduce the level of attention paid to urban areas, such as Longford. “Urban areas have problems that rural ones don’t. If the county town is right, the whole county will benefit. Now councillors from the urban areas will have to be vying for attention at a county level, instead of the concentrated efforts at a Town Council level.”

Explaining why she didn’t attend yesterday’s meeting with the minister, Cllr Nolan said: “I’m the sitting Mayor of Longford Town Council; going to Dublin would be the equivalent of a turkey walking up to the block while the butcher stands waiting with a cleaver.”

Cllr Nolan’s Town Council colleague, Fianna Fail councillor Michael Connellan said the abolition of the Town Council would have a detrimental effect on the town.

“With respect, the majority of County Councillors are not living in Longford town and would only be conversant with what is going on in their own area. To attack and abolish a Town Council that has represented the people of Longford for many decades is reprehensible. Put simply, the people of Longford Town will lose their voice,” he added.

The electoral map for the County Council elections will be redrawn early next year with the new system coming into effect for the 2014 local elections.

Minister Hogan hopes to save $45 million from the reforms of local government structures, with about $15-$20m of that figure coming from abolition of 80 borough and town councils.

Independent Councillor with Granard Town Council, Tommy Stokes said he was “very disappointed” with the minister’s proposal and denied the plans would save any money in the long-term. “They will save absolutely nothing by doing this. The whole of Granard Town Council is run for $55,000 a year. A town the size of Granard needs that representation.”