Will it work?
Each of the proposals in this “Capital Ideas” series has been put to a group of three experts for an initial “back of an envelope” evaluation.
They are: Frances Ruane (top right), former director of the Economic and Social Research Institute; Caroline Spillane (middle right), director general of Engineers Ireland; and Cliff Taylor (bottom right), Irish Times economics columnist. Caroline Spillane
I have reservations about this plan, particularly due to the size of Dublin relative to the country as a whole. One person would have responsibility for 40 per cent of our population. The powers of this office would need to be carefully defined. The proposed mayor would be in a position of power for only five years, which could lead to short-term thinking.
An Irish Times article from 2010 estimated the annual cost of the office will be in the region of ¤ 8 million based on a minimum staffing level of 35 to 40 people.
This proposal has surfaced in various forms over the years and fits into a common theme that restructuring institutions or posts can fix problems. This could be a good idea, but the job spec, powers and budget are key. The benefit depends on how it is structured – and who is elected, of course.
It is a useful proposal but to work it requires a new vision for local government, something talked about for years and years but never delivered.
Cities with elected mayors seem to work well. However, in Ireland, this would have to be set up as part of a rebalancing of central and local government, if it is to work. If the city itself does not have decision making power, then adding a mayor will not solve the problem.
Meanwhile Dublin City Council should work on its governance and adopt an integrated problem-solving planning approach. This must involve all four authorities working together. That would involve no serious resource costs.