To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the estimated first and full year cost of establishing town councils; the number of town councils that will be needed; the number of town councils that existed previously; the cost of running those town councils; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Local Government Reform Act 2014 saw the dissolution of 80 town councils and the Government has no plans for their reintroduction. Instead, the focus of current policy is to strengthen the operation of the 95 municipal districts established in 2014 and which cover the entirety of the State’s population as opposed to the 14% of the population previously represented by town councils.
A report by my Department entitled “Municipal Governance – Districts, Towns and Local Electoral Areas”, which is with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for consideration, contained an outline assessment of the potential cost of reintroducing town councils, along similar lines as previously existed, suggesting that the costs could be in the order of €28 million to €38 million per annum. Any detailed calculation of the full cost of reverting to town councils should also, in addition to the cost of re-establishing structures, take account of the potential financial impact of unwinding reforms introduced since 2014 in areas such as rate-setting.
It should be noted that engagement with local authority members, as represented by the Association of Irish Local Government, has focussed on strengthening the roles of municipal districts and achieving a clearer focus on towns within that context.
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