Councillors call for more power for all districts
THE Corporate Policy Group will produce a document for July’s meeting of Wicklow County Council which will outline the delegation of greater functions to Municipal Districts.
The matter was placed on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the council after Cllr Steven Matthews had previously called for Municipal Districts to carry out certain functions rather than Wicklow County Council.
‘By bringing power back to the districts, we will get better results because no one knows the issues better than the people who represent those areas,’ said Cllr Matthews.
The popular feeling within the council chamber was that Part 8s and Local Area Plans should be delegated to the relevant district.
Council cathaoirleach Cllr Edward Timmins supported the Municipal Districts having more power.
‘We have seen how a Part 8 can dominate these council meetings and take up a lot of time, often double or triple what it should be. It goes to the Municipal District, then back to the council, then back to the Municipal District again.’
Cllr Joe Behan wondered why the elected members hadn’t been informed that certain functions could be carried out by the Municipal Districts when Councillors debated a recent Part 8 in Bray and the Bray Local Area Plan at recent County Council meetings.
‘Both of those issues could have been decided by Bray Municipal District. I am nearly certain I was told it couldn’t happen at Municipal District level.
‘I got the impression it all had to be done in Wicklow. This has serious implications for some decisions recently made in this chamber regarding Bray,’ said Cllr Behan.
Cllr Tom Fortune said he had been a critic of the municipal district format since it replaced town councils in 2014.
‘I am on record when the districts were put in place that powers that should have been given to them hadn’t been. The municipal district model is absolutely ideal only if it is given plenty of power and the financial input it needs. It would be more democratic to have all items discussed at district level,’ he said.
In essence, Cllr Grainne McLoughlin agreed with a Part 8 being carried out by the districts but she had concerns over potential hung-votes.
‘ The problem is when a district has eight or six members. If the vote is 50-50 then the deciding vote goes to the district Cathaoirleach. If that proves to be the case in the future, then I think that particular Part 8 should go to the full council.’
Cllr Nicola Lawless said: ‘Any powers that can be given back to Municipal Districts should be, including bye-laws. It would free up more time in this chamber for more productive work.’
Cllr Christopher Fox agreed with crux of what Cllr Matthews was calling for.
‘A lot of time discussions happen at Municipal District level anyway when involving an Area Development Plan. Most of the discussions have already taken place before they even get to this chamber and some members weren’t privy to those discussions,’ said Cllr Fox.
Cllr Vincent Blake offered his support to allowing the Municipal Districts have more of a say.
‘I would always endeavour to make myself aware of what I was voting on in this chamber, whether it is in Bray or elsewhere. However, their may be some contentious matters that do need to come back to the full council chamber,’ he said.
Cllr Oliver O’Brien referenced a recent Bray Municipal District meeting on spending money generated from Southern Cross.
‘We had four members in favour and four against and the chairman had the balancing vote. In those sort of cases, I think either the district has to be changed to an uneven number or the matter has to be deferred back to the county council.’
Cllr Gerry Walsh also didn’t feel that allowing the chairman to have the deciding votes in such cases was ‘satisfactory.’
Cllr John Ryan had some reservations over delegating too many functions back to Municipal Districts.
‘I was elected as a member of Wicklow County Council. What we are discussing here could mean that I get absolutely no say over something that happens just over the Bray border, say in Greystones for example. I think that’s wrong. For instance, if it is something to do with Greystones Harbour then I want a say.’
The matter will go before the Corporate Policy Group who will return to the July meeting with a policy document.