North Tipperary Claiming Our Future,
Mr. Phil Hogan,
Minister for Heritage, Environment and Local Government,
Following your announcement of Wednesday 26th of July 2011 to merger both North and South Tipperary County Councils, which while not being totally unexpected and being in line with the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group of 2010, commissioned by the last government, begs many questions.
At our regular meeting following your announcement, some of the general questions posed were:
What is this going to mean?
Is this a money saving exercise?
Will services be improved?
What will happen to the other Local Authorities in Tipperary?
Will people lose their jobs?
Can someone please explain and show where the savings are?
However, the most pertinent questions from our point of view, is how does the proposed process bring Local Government closer to the citizen and how does it promote the reform agenda?
From our initial reading of your press release and in reading through the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, it is clear that this process does nothing to bring local Government closer to the citizens or indeed invite them to meaningful participation in the process of governance and indeed does not contribute in any meaningful way to the process of reform.
While we acknowledge, that greater efficiencies, better delivery of services, value for money and the elimination of waste are required, not just now, but at all times, one can sense the dead hand of central government further tightening the shackles on what is left of Local Government.
You, as the Minister now have the golden opportunity to truly reform Local Government in Ireland and we encourage you to take up that torch and run with it.
This once in a lifetime chance to make a major contribution to Irish civic and political life should not be passed up lightly.
It is now time, rather than further centralising the decision making process, to expand it, truly start decentralising the process and look at enhancing the powers of local authorities and even expanding the roles of urban and town councils as is permitted under law.
We would ask you to stop and think, to reflect on where we are now and on how we got here and the decisions of previous governments of all hues which has lead us to this sorry pass.
As a society we are at a crossroads in our political, social, civic, cultural and economic history, things cannot go back to where they were, nor can they stay the same, it is time to trust the people, to empower the citizens.
In the past number of weeks, we as a group made a submission to North Tipperary County Council and will make the same submission to other local authorities in North Tipperary and our submission is the outcome of a Citizens Forum held in Nenagh on May 14th 2011.
In our submission, among our proposals is that the relevant local authorities in North Tipperary
Set up a recognised Group/Citizens Forum
Set up a Participatory Budgeting Forum
Where relevant encourage the setting up of Citizens Juries.
The above gives a sense of our submission and we would submit to you that greater involvement and true participation of citizens in the decision making process would only strengthen the democratic process from which many people feel greatly disaffected at this present time.
The decision to merger North and South Tipperary County Councils was made outside Tipperary and without proper consultation and needs to be looked at again.
We as a group both locally and nationally come from all walks of life and we recognise that the model of governance we now have needs to be remade and we await your response and would indeed welcome the opportunity to discuss our ideas and proposals with you.
North Tipperary Claiming Our Future