Labour has put forward far-reaching proposals to reform local government that will deliver genuine efficiency at local level. For example:
* Is our view that where an issue arises regarding a town council seeking rating status or dispute arises over the inclusion of an area in a council, the issue could be resolved either by plebiscite of the voters in that area or by recommendation of the Local Government Commission (Local Government Act, 2001)
* Government departments and State Agency should be examined to identify those functions which would be performed more effectively and appropriately at a local level.
* Councils should have the power to seek reports from service providers on a similar basis to Oireachtas Committees, and to question, in public, the appropriate managers on aspects of their service.
* The position of County Manager should be abolished and replaced by a Chief Executive of the Council.
* We believe that the distinction between county councils and the town www.wongapromotioncode.co.uk should be rebalanced.
* Chief Executives should exercise a limited range of Executive Functions, similar to those which were originally intended in the City and County management Acts.
* Chief Executives should have no policy-making functions other than to assist and advise the elected Council in the making of policy.
* The power of the Minister to abolish a Council and to replace it with a Commissioner should be ended. Instead, where a Council fails to adopt an Annual Budget, the Council should stand suspended, and fresh elections be held to elect a new council for the remainder of its five year cycle.
* Rates should be levied on State owned property. There is no continuing justification for exempting State owned property from the rates regime which applies to privately owned click here businesses.
Local Government Reform can only be achieved in the context of a broader reform programme that not only involves National Government Reform but also a comprehensive reform of our public and state structures thereby providing a clear framework as to what functions as best suited to the differing levels of government.
The November meeting of the Labour Party in Westport takes place this Wednesday evening at 8pm (Nov 10th) in Henehan’s Bar, Bridge Street. Anyone interested in membership or helping Labour elect Dr Jerry Cowley is welcome to attend.
Dear Minister Hogan,
Numerous constituents who want to pay the charge have been in contact with me due to their frustration with the options currently available for paying the €100 charge. They know the charge is required to fund local services, and they want to be able to pay it in their local post office where many access other public services.
HSE INVITE REPEATED
The HSE have been invited to come before Westport Town Council and discuss the current and future provision of health services within the town, including the future development of the MacBride nursing home according to Cllr Keith Martin.
“In September of 2011 I proposed a motion that representatives of the HSE come before Westport Town Council and update us as to the recruitment of a new Director of Nursing for the MacBride Home and on developments such as the transfer of Westport’s two Community Welfare Officers to the Department of Social Protection, the retirement of so many community and psychiatric nurses and how these events will impact on health services in Westport.
“While we have received written updates in relation to the recruitment of the new Director of Nursing the HSE have not yet accepted our invitation.
“At the January meeting of Westport Town Council I repeated the motion, which was supported unanimously, and the Town Clerk has written to the HSE again asking them to appear before us and update us on the HSE’s plans for Westport.
“I expect that such a discussion will take place in March or April and that it will be an informative meeting, which will go a long way to reassuring the people of Westport in relation to the security of their local health services.
Labour’s Cllr Keith Martin says the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan should take action to make the payment of the household charge less hassle and more convenient, particularly for older people.
“The public need to be provided with a more accessible method of paying the household charge and the local post office is the ideal venue. Numerous constituents who want to pay the charge have been in contact with me due to their frustration with the options currently available for paying the €100 charge. They know the charge is required to fund local services, and they want to be able to pay it in their local post office where many access other public services.
“There are too many people who are seeking to pay the Household Charge before the deadline, but who are unable to pay online or do not have the ability to get to their council offices. I have written to Minister Hogan asking him to consider giving people more options for how they can pay their household charge before the deadline is up.
“I can see no reason why the country’s network of Post Offices cannot be used to give people more opportunities to pay the household charge. I hope the Minister can move swiftly to give people more opportunities to pay the Household Charge.
“It is one of the basics of all public charges that the State should make it as easy as possible for the citizen to pay the charge. I would hope that Minister Hogan would bear this in mind and allow people to pay the charge through their local Post Office.”
New legislation will lift the burden of large auditing and administration bills from the community and voluntary sector, Labour’s Cllr Keith Martin has learned.
The Labour councillor has been told that the Dept of Jobs and Innovation is planning to greatly reduce the paperwork legally required by voluntary groups under the new Companies Bill. The Dept intends to exempt charitable organisations from the stringent audit requirements imposed on private companies.
According to Cllr Martin “This is good news for those people who run our sports clubs, help our youth, care for the vulnerable and generally make our communities better places to live, shouldn’t be unnecessarily burdened with high cost legal and financial requirements. They need every cent they have for the valuable work they do.”
The new Companies Bill, which is expected later this year, will introduce a new type of default private company to cover the charity and voluntary sector, known as a CLS or private company limited by shares.
Cllr Martin says the changes will provide “a number of tangible benefits aimed at reducing the administrative burden on our voluntary groups. The lengthy and complex legal documents needed to set up other companies will no longer be required. These new CLS companies can be incorporated using a single document possibly a page long,”
“In short it will be a great deal easier and less expensive for the voluntary sector to start, use and run such a company. It is a move that will benefit not just community groups but society as a whole,”
Westport Fairtrade committee will be hosting a public meeting next
Wednesday at 8pm in the Wyatt Hotel. The meeting will be chaired by
Cllr Keith Martin and is open to existing members and members of the
public who wish to learn more or volunteer to support the organisation
or join the committee.
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local
sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the
developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices
(which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade
addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally
discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them
to improve their position and have more control over their lives
Fairtrade Ireland awards a consumer label, the FAIRTRADE Mark, to
products which meet internationally recognised standards of Fairtrade.
Supported by ActionAid Ireland, Amnesty International (Irish Section),
Christian Aid, Comhlámh, Concern, Friends of the Earth, Irish Aid,
Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Oxfam Ireland and Trócaire.
Westport’s Fairtrade Steering Committee was established in early 2005
with the aim of making achieving Fairtrade status for the town. The
committee members were Edel Hackett, Mary Walsh, Roisin Moran, Sue
Minish, Brian Quinn, Cllr Keith Martin, Gemma Hennesy, Sheila
O’Donnell and Bríd McAuley. Westport became a Fairtrade town in
2006 and the committee have continued to lobby for the wider
availability of Fairtrade products in the town.
According to Cllr Keith Martin the recently announced €5 million
investment to transform Westport into a Smarter Travel Area, promoting
cycling and walking, public transport, and reducing car travel must
include plans to link areas like Sandyhill, the Ballinrobe road,
Carrabawn and the Leanne road to Westport town centre with new
The Labour Party councillor says such Greenways would “significantly
reduce the numbers of cars using the town by giving these areas
improved cycling ways, including safe routes to school and to key
business and workplace zones which would allow people to walk and
cycle, in safety, to the town.”
“Currently areas like the Ballinrobe road, Sandyhill and the Leanne
road are virtually impossible to walk or cycle on because of the
volume and speed of the traffic, dangerous bends and impassible
railway bridges. If Westport Town Council provides the Greenways then
we will see a huge uptake in walking and cycling as we have already
witnessed in those areas now being served by the Greenway.”
Cllr Keith Martin says that Irish Rail should reverse its decision to increase fares on the Westport to Dublin route. Cllr Martin says the fares increases are disincentive to rail travel and will impact on visitor numbers to the town this year.
According to the Westport based Labour councillor “Rail fares are already too expensive, at €37 one way to Dublin one could fly to London or Rome with Ryanair for the same price. It is time we see rail prices cut and subsidised from carbon taxes. At the moment these funds go into the government’s coffers when they should be used to promote sustainable transport such as train travel.
“It is far too expensive to travel by train in this country. On mainland europe rail travel is a cheap way to travel. Here in Ireland it is still charged at luxury prices. It is time that we had cheap train travel especially on intercity routes such as the Westport to Dublin line which are vital to our local and national tourism and business economy.
“Irish Rail have finally given us the extra services and new trains that we, as a community, have lobbied for. Now they go and ruin it by gouging rail users for more money during a recession.
“This increase is a mistake and should be reversed. I would urge consumers, businesses, councils and chambers of commerce to make their feelings known to Irish Rail. Train travel should be cheaper than air travel. Irish Rail need to rethink their business model along the lines of Ryanair and not the Orient Express.”
Homeowners in over 60 unfinished housing estates throughout Mayo will be eligible for a waiver of the €100 household charge according to Westport based Labour councillor, Keith Martin.
According to Cllr Martin the new legislation “provides that an owner of residential property which is situated in an unfinished estate is entitled to a waiver from payment of the Household Charge in respect of that property for that year.”
The wavier only applies to estates where the developer is still in place but is effectively inactive, or where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.
A national survey of unfinished housing developments was carried out in 2011 by officials from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with the Planning Departments of the various local authorities. As part of this survey, all unfinished developments were examined and categorised along the following lines:
Category 1: the development is still being actively completed by the developer;
Category 2: a receiver has been appointed;
Category 3: a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place but effectively inactive; and
Category 4: the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.
An owner of a residential property in an unfinished development contained in the prescribed list is entitled to a waiver from payment of the household charge in 2012. This prescribed list consists only of developments under Categories 3 and 4.
According to the Westport based Cllr Martin “A list of such estates has been published by the Dept of the Environment which has identified 62 such estates in Mayo.
This new charge, of EUR 100 per year in 2012, is unfortunately a condition of the EU/IMF bailout that was necessitated by the disastrous economic mismanagement of the previous FF/Green Government.
The charge will fund essential local services such as libraries, road cleaning, public lighting and so on that councils such as Westport Town Council and Mayo County Council provide to all citizens.
The charge has been carefully framed so as to make owners liable rather than occupiers. Social housing and houses of the elderly who are living in nursing homes etc are included in the exemptions. Those in receipt of mortgage interest supplement and in these particular unfinished estates are also exempt.”
Sli Na Misean
Un-named estate Church Road
A full list of the qualifying unfinished estates is available at www.householdcharge.ie
This Thursday The Clock Tavern bar is hosting a Fundraiser session for Westport’s community radio station WRFM 98.2.
The session kicks of at 9pm and Tickets are just €5. There will also be a raffle.
The organisers promise plenty of criac and ceol from a host of Westport Session musicians.
All proceeds in support of WRFM.
Please come out and give us your support!