‘More Power To You’ to focus on democracy, energy, waste, water and housing and seeks citizens assembly to examine the role of local democracy in Ireland
Fórsa, SIPTU and Connect trade unions, which collectively represent 30,000 local authority workers across Ireland, have officially launched the second phase of its campaign to reclaim the role of local authorities and local democracy today (Wednesday 9th June) at a meeting with officials from the three unions.
More Power To You was launched first in 2019, with the aim of enhancing local democracy, and to start a conversation about the future of local government and local services that reflect the needs of Ireland’s changing and diverse society.
The next phase of the campaign will seek a citizens’ assembly to examine the role of local democracy in Ireland, lobbying at national level for enhanced local government, briefings with local authorities, submissions to local development plans, the development of local frameworks to tackle outsourcing and making the case for specific actions under the five pillars of the campaign:
The re-establishment of town councils
Examination of the role of local democracy in Ireland by a citizens assembly.
Enable local authorities to lead micro generation and community ownership of renewable energy projects
Local government led carbon emissions targets
Regularisation of waste services across the country
End of side-by-side competition in the waste market
Enable local authorities to re-enter bin collection services.
An audit of land banks available to local authorities for the construction of social and affordable housing.
Hold a referendum to enshrine public ownership of water in the Irish Constitution
Local authorities to remain central to the delivery of public water services.
Now is a good time to look to the future of local democracy and plan a better, more ambitious model that responds to the unique challenges of our times.
Fórsa national secretary Peter Nolan said the pandemic had revealed how much the State relied on local authorities to lead the response: “What we’ve seen over the past 15 months is a strong and active response, with enhanced service delivery from local authorities, limited only by a widely recognised need for greater investment.
“The capacity of local authorities to respond to an expanded role, in crisis conditions, was widely demonstrated, so now is a good time to look to the future of local democracy and plan a better, more ambitious model that responds to the unique challenges of our times, which is reflected in the five pillars of this campaign,” he said.
Adrian Kane of SIPTU said local government expenditure only constitutes 8.4% of general expenditure, ranking Ireland lowest in the EU for local government spending.
“We see the same low ranking for Irish local government when we look at its autonomy relative to 39 other OECD countries, second only to Moldova.
This is a time to be ambitious, and to recognise that the biggest challenges we face, including climate change and housing, present a genuine opportunity to re-evaluate the role of local government in solving those problems, and reinvigorating real, participative local democracy.
“This is based on an examination of the size and structure of local authorities and the balance of power between the administrative and elected parts of local government, as well as the range of functions for which local government has responsibility and, crucially, the financial autonomy of Irish local government.
“We perform poorly by all of those measurements. But this is a time to be ambitious, and to recognise that the biggest challenges we face, including climate change and housing, present a genuine opportunity to re-evaluate the role of local government in solving those problems, and reinvigorating real, participative local democracy,” he said.
Ger Mooney of Connect trade union said, “Currently, there are now almost 20% fewer people employed in local authorities than in 2008, with fewer than 40 apprentices nationally.
“We need to upskill our workforce, create more direct employment, and reverse the trend over the last four decades where public services are continuously outsourced.
“That needs to change, and that’s what this campaign seeks to do. All across the EU, previously out-sourced services are being brought back in-house because it leads to increased efficiencies and better service quality outcomes for communities, “he said.