Kildare South Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon has today (Friday) described the reforms of Local Government published yesterday by Minister Phil Hogan as reforming and far reaching and believes that the enhanced powers they will give to Local Representatives will lead to a better service and better representation for the people of Kildare South.

“While obvious cost savings will be achieved through the abolition of 80 town councils and a reduction of almost 600 councillor’s this is not the sole aim of the reforms.  The main aim of the reforms is to overhaul our system of Local Government and make it more relevant to the modern Ireland that it serves.”

“The Bill published yesterday sets out for the first time in detail all of the 160 separate functions that are reserved by law to the elected members.  I hope this will lead to an increased awareness of these powers.  Obviously increased powers will lead to increased responsibility for elected members and the Bill also provides for new monitoring functions to ensure greater accountability at local level.”

“Since the abolition of rates in 1977, councillors have, with some justification, complained of a lack of fiscal power at local level.  This is now also being changed with confirmation that from 2015, each local authority will have the discretion to vary the rate of local property tax in their area.  This power will allow elected members to provide for additional projects in their own areas or indeed to go for a lower tax regime if that is what they deem fit for their area.  The power will be theirs and they will be accountable for those decisions.”

“As someone who served on Kildare County Council for almost two years I saw at first hand the huge level of administrative duplication that exists in the current system.  As a representative for the Athy local area, I was restricted in what I could do in the town of Athy due to the existence of Athy Town Council, of which I wasn’t a member.  These reforms will remove much of that duplication and make the governance system more efficient.

“They will also address an issue of unbalanced representation that has developed over time.  Is it right that residents of Newbridge have the additional representation from a Town Council when their near neighbours in Athgarvan or Milltown did not? These new reforms will give the same rights and powers to all local residents.

“These reforms bring a re-balancing of power from the executive to the elected members, incorporating greater power over policy formulation, which has long been sought.  I believe they will prove to be radical, reforming and represent a real change to how local government is run.”