Community Participation Proposals in Local Government Reform have merit but are meaningless without resources

Commenting further on Minister Hogan’s Local Government Reform Proposals announced yesterday, the Green Party welcomes the proposals to introduce plebiscites, town and area meetings, community forums and wider participative planning methodologies but criticize the lack of any substance to the proposals and lack of either financial or staff resources to such proposals.

‘Meaningful community participation in local decision making does however require having the right resources.  I don’t see how the Minister can propose an entire shift in how local authorities interact with the people they serve, while at the same time planning further cuts in staffing and boasting that his reform programme will net €420 million in savings to the exchequer’ said Green Party Spokesperson for Environment, Community and Local Government, Cllr Malcolm Noonan.

‘If anything such an approach will require extra staffing as such expertise cannot be easily transferred from Water Services or Waste Management to the Community and Enterprise section. In order to engage in such an expansive project, Local Authorities will need to either employ or train a specific skillsets aimed at activating and empowering communities that have been starved of meaningful involvement in decision making for decades’ he said.

The Green Party has stated further that there may be merit in retaining town councils on a completely voluntary basis; led by community leaders, chambers of commerce, voluntary groups and in particular youth councils and youth organizations. ‘Such models exist in many EU States but do require resources to support their work. Community led town councils could have a powerful role in policy making and community engagement and would be no threat to the elected member of County Councils’ said Cllr Noonan.

‘Minister Hogan’s wider proposals represent a real loss of democratic sovereignty and accountability at a political level.  Meaningful community participation, using the sort of community structures that the Green Party is proposing, could play a vital role in redressing the power imbalance that now exists.   There might be a short term cost in running the sort of participative democratic events that were held by the ‘We the citizens’ initiative last year but the gains from better resolution of local planning disputes and better decision making would be far greater.’ concluded Cllr Noonan.

 

Cllr Malcolm Noonan
Green Party Spokesperson

Environment Community and Local Government

086 839 9418