Dáil Éireann - Volume 435 - 03 November, 1993

Local Government (Dublin) Bill, 1993: Second Stage.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith): I move:

“That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

This Bill provides for the establishment of three new county councils — Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown — to replace the existing Dublin County Council, Dún Laoghaire Corporation, and Dean's Grange Joint Burial Board. It represents the culmination of a legislative process which began in 1985. The new county councils will be the first since the system of county councils was established in 1898. We are making history here today and we would like to continue to do so.

The Bill also deals with a large number of matters, many of a detailed, technical nature, arising from the establishment of the new authorities and the dissolution of the existing bodies, including adjustments to other statutory codes and provisions to rationalise and improve local authority operations in Dublin in a number of service areas.

The 1991 census showed Dublin county, which stretches from Balbriggan to Bray and westwards to the Kildare and Meath borders, to have a population of almost 547,000. At the start of the century almost the entire county was essentially rural. Subsequent changes in local authority structures basically involved the city boundaries extending outwards in pursuit of population growth into the county. During this century the population in the Dublin area has more than doubled, with growth being especially marked — involving an increase of more [796] than half a million over 50 years — between the thirties and the early eighties. This growth in overall population has been accompanied by redistribution on a massive scale with population loss at the centre and population gain in the surrounding county.

As in most European cities, for much of the first half of this century a majority of the population of Dublin lived in the inner city, that is roughly within one to two kilometres of the centre at O'Connell Bridge. Over a quarter of a million people lived in this area during the thirties, many of them in highly congested and very poor accommodation.

From the thirties onwards a combination of factors acted to promote growth in the county. On the one hand, a programme of local authority house building at suburban locations allowed for slum clearance in inner city areas. On the other, a rise in private car ownership, particularly from the fifties on, accelerated a trend for people to move outward to new suburbs and beyond to surrounding towns and villages. New industrial and commercial enterprises also began to locate in the country.

Over the years there have been many proposals for reorganisation of the local government structures in the Dublin area to adapt to changing patterns of social, economic and population distribution. There were inquiries in 1880, 1926 and 1938; a White Paper in 1971 and a policy statement in 1985. A number of enactments to implement boundary changes were passed in the first half of the century as the city boundary was moved outwards. In particular, the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930, provided for boundary alterations, together with the creation of Dún Laoghaire Borough and the introduction of the management system in Dublin. The most recent legislation was the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act, 1985, and the Local Government Act, 1991.

The 1985 Act increased the membership of the city council and of the county council, made adjustments to the boundary between city and county and divided the county into three areas used [797] for the purposes of the 1985 local elections. These areas, which were known as electoral counties, are essentially the same as those for which the new county councils are now being established. Under the 1985 Act the total membership elected on the basis of the electoral counties — 78 persons in all — formed the membership of Dublin County Council pending further legislation which was intended to formally establish the three new county councils and dissolve the existing bodies.

The Local Government Act, 1991, provided, inter alia, for a structured and progressive statutory framework to carry forward the reorganisation process. In particular it required Dublin County Council to establish an “area committee” for each electoral county and to delegate functions to them: it provided for the appointment of three area managers; required the new area managers to prepare jointly, following consultation with the area committees and Dublin Corporation, a “reorganisation report” setting out arrangements to be made in preparation for the transition to the new councils, and to submit the report to the Minister for the Environment; provided that all Dublin authorities could make submissions to the Minister in relation to the report and provided that the Minister for the Environment could then by regulations make arrangements allowing for the making of necessary preparations.

The Reorganisation report was duly published in July 1992 and set out the general arrangements to give effect to the reorganisation process. Broadly speaking it proposed that the three councils would operate as autonomous local authorities each providing its own services, but certain services such as sewage treatment, waste disposal and water production would continue to be provided on the wider Dublin area basis. The Dublin (Preparations for Reorganisation) Regulations, 1993, made by me required the area managers to prepare schemes, in general accord with the reorganisation report, which would have effect on and from the establishment of the new councils. These schemes deal with the many [798] practical arrangements to be made in preparation for the new councils. For example, the allocation of assets and liabilities; the performance of functions by one authority on behalf of another; staff assignment to the new councils, etc. These arrangements are well in train and are, I understand, on target for a 1 January 1994 start up, thus clearing the way for the establishment of the new county councils provided for in the Bill.

The proposal to establish three new county councils is designed to ensure more relevant and accessible local government structures with a a sharper focus and operational capability to serve their areas. However, any proposals for reorganisation in Dublin must address the issue of co-ordination of major local authority services. In this context not only are important provisions included in the Bill — which I will come to in a moment — but relevant action is being taken at the regional level to ensure the desired result. An order under section 43 of the Local Government Act, 1991, for the establishment of regional authorities will be made by me shortly. The three new counties and the city will constitute a single Dublin region; this has been the case for Structural Fund purposes for some years past. The surrounding counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow will constitute the mid-west region. The purpose of regional authorities will be to promote the co-ordination of public, including local authority, services and the order establishing them will provide for a significant role in relation to the review and co-ordination of development plans.

Over and above the regional authority framework, section 32 of the Bill requires the three new councils and Dublin Corporation to co-operate, to have due regard to the needs of the overall Dublin region in their policies and programmes and enjoins the managers to ensure that necessary procedures are in place to facilitate this. Under that section, the four authorities must also have regard to any strategy, study or other statement of the Dublin or Mid-East Regional Authority or any joint statement of those bodies. Taken together, the provisions of [799] the Bill and the operation of the regional authorities will ensure that necessary co-ordination proceeds on an ongoing basis as regards local authority services and functions affecting the Dublin area as a whole. This brings me to the detailed provisions of the Bill.

Part I contains standard provisions relating to short title, interpretation and repeals. Section 3 deals with orders and regulations and section 5 deals with the construction of enactments. Section 6 deals with implementation of the Act by local authorities, including actions by local authorities in anticipation of its commencement and also provision for directions to ensure that necessary steps are taken to give full effect to the provisions of the Bill.

Part II deals with the establishment of the proposed county councils. Section 7 provides for the establishment day, that is, the day on which the new county councils are to be established and on which the existing bodies are dissolved. It is the intention to fix 1 January 1994 as the establishment day. Section 8 provides for boundary alterations to the city-county boundary and for boundary alterations between the electoral counties. I stress that these boundary alterations were all recommended in the reorganisation report to which I already referred. All these adjustments will take effect on the establishment day. Section 9 provides for the abolition of, inter alia, the administrative County of Dublin and the Borough of Dún Laoghaire and for the establishment of the three new administrative counties.

The Irish and English titles of the new counties are set out in section 9, as is a procedure for the alteration of the name of any of the counties. I should mention here that the question of the names of the new counties was raised in the reorganisation report but without any resolution of the matter — hence the provision referred to which will permit a change in name in future to be promoted by the relevant county council. Section 10 provides for the preparation by the Commissioner of Valuation of official [800] maps showing the boundaries of the new counties following from the changes effected by section 8.

Section 11 provides for the establishment of the new councils. Each council will consist of a cathaoirleach and councillors and will have all the powers normally vested in county councils. For example, the new councils will be housing authorities, rating authorities, planning authorities, etc. Section 12 provides that the members of the area committees will become the first members of the new councils and the chairman of each committee will become the first cathaoirleach of the corresponding council. Section 13 makes necessary provision for management of the new councils and section 14 is a technical measure which allows for expenditure by the new councils in the short period between the establishment day and the adoption of their estimates later in January 1994.

Part III deals with the dissolution of Dublin County Council, Dún Laoghaire Corporation and Dean's Grange Joint Burial Board and makes necessary consequential provisions.

Section 15 deals with the dissolutions and sections 16 and 17, together with the Second Schedule, deal with consequential arrangements, including transfers of staff. I have already referred to the statutory reorganisation report. The report sets out the arrangements to be made in preparation for the transition to the new authorities and the 1993 regulations provide for schemes to be prepared by the area managers for transfer of assets, liabilities, etc. and for staff designations in accordance with these arrangements. It is these schemes and designations, together with the provisions of the Bill, which will determine the detailed allocation of property, equipment, contracts, etc. and the assignment of staff to the new councils, and which will effect their formal transfer.

Part IV of the Bill provides for consequential adjustments to a number of statutory codes, ministerial responsibility for which rests with other members of the Government. In general the provisions of this Part relate to public bodies to which [801] the local authorities to be dissolved make appointments or to statutory provisions which use the administrative areas of the dissolved bodies in defining their area of application. The explanatory memorandum outlines the various arrangements proposed and the codes which are affected.

Part V of the Bill deals with a number of miscellaneous matters relating to the local authorities in the Dublin area. Section 32, to which I already referred, places a statutory duty on the principal authorities to have regard to the metropolitan interest and provides for the necessary arrangements designed to support this objective. Section 33 confers power on the new councils to repair branch water pipes, a power which incidentally, has been available to Dublin Corporation and Dún Laoghaire Corporation but not to Dublin County Council.

Section 34 deals with responsibility for water supply in parts of the county of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Under the Dublin Corporation Waterworks Act, 1861, Dublin Corporation is responsible for the supply of water to certain areas outside the city known as the “extra-municipal areas”. This is clearly unsatisfactory and the new county council will assume responsibility for this function.

Section 35 and the Third Schedule rationalise responsibility for certain dwellings and land in the Dublin area. Over the past 20 years Dublin Corporation has engaged in large scale house construction in the county area. This has resulted in a situation where now there are almost 7,500 rented houses in the county owned by the corporation. Equally, but on a much smaller scale, there are county council houses in the corporation area. The reorganisation report highlighted this, together with the related issue of corporation land in the county, as matters that required attention and specifically recommend a transfer of ownership of houses to the local authority in whose area they are located. Section 35 and the Third Schedule, therefore, should be seen against this background and as representing an attempt to come [802] to terms with a difficult problem in a way that will be seen to be fair to all the parties concerned. The explanatory memorandum sets out how these provisions will operate in practice. There will be difficult issues to be addressed by the managers in consultation with the elected members but I am sure that, with goodwill from all sides, the best all round arrangements will be worked out. I might add here that it is my intention that this process will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion without delay.

Section 36 will rationalise responsibility for certain Liffey bridges and harbour walls, while section 37 is a technical amendment to section 63 of the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930, in relation to the form of notice served for the payment of rates.

Section 38 will enable the transfer of fire staff from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to Dublin Corporation where an appropriate agreement is made between the two authorities for the performance of fire authority functions.

Section 39 contains provisions relating to the application of certain enactments in relation to the former borough area. It is purely a temporary contingency provision which will cease to have effect two years after the establishment day.

The First Schedule sets out repeals. In the main these effect amendments to various enactments arising from the establishment of the three new counties and the dissolution of the existing bodies; various obsolete provisions are also being repealed. The Second Schedule provides for matters consequential on the dissolutions of Dublin County Council, Dún Laoghaire Corporation and Dean's Grange Joint Burial Board and the matters concerned are listed in the explanatory memorandum. Finally, the Third Schedule sets out the arrangements to give effect to the transfer of houses and land pursuant to section 35 which I have mentioned previously.

I have every hope and confidence that the arrangements proposed in the Bill, with the action proposed at regional level, will significantly enhance the local government system in our capital city by, [803] on the one hand, making it more local, democratic and accountable and on the other, by ensuring that issues with metropolitan-wide significance are looked at in that way, and by having structures which facilitate and encourage such an approach.

I would also like to put on the record of the House my appreciation to all of those who have been involved in the reorganisation process in the Dublin area, from the elected members to the managers, and to local authority officials who have co-operated fully in the transition process and without whose goodwill and hard work the process could not have been brought to the satisfactory stage now reached.

In commending the Bill to the House I look forward to the contributions from all sides and I hope we will be able to conclude our work here in time to meet the establishment deadline. I trust that will not put too great an onus on my colleagues who have to facilitate those developments through the House.

Mrs. Doyle: The Bill before us today effectively abolishes County Dublin, and as one born and bred in these parts of Ireland I find it rather strange that we in this House are abolishing County Dublin. I am not sure whether Dubliners realise that that is what we are about today, but in effect that is the case. No longer will the concept of County Dublin exist. Many who consider themselves to be “Dubs” or living in County Dublin will now be living in County Fingal or County Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown or South Dublin County. I am glad the Minister referred to the mechanism he has provided for revising the names if that should be the wish of the people and the elected members in the relevant areas. I believe most of the names are unacceptable at this stage. From representations made to me I am of the view that people would like to keep the title Dublin in all of the three new counties. In other words, we would have Dublin Fingal, Dublin Belgard and, perhaps, Dublin Dún Laoghaire, but that is for others to decide [804] on another occasion. However, as we are making history today by relegating County Dublin to the history books, those who will be most affected by it should have a say. I welcome their involvement in the process of deciding what their new county shall be called and whether they are satisfied with the provisional titles of the three new counties which are in the Bill before us.

The Bill provides for the division of the administrative county of Dublin into three administrative counties to be known respectively as County of South Dublin — this is a misnomer, whatever about West Dublin. It also creates enormous confusion in regard to Dáil constituency nomenclature, among other things. However, such as they are, these are the new titles — the County of South Dublin, the County of Fingal and the County of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. It also provides for the establishment of a council for each of these new counties and various other related matters to which the Minister has referred.

I believe many people will experience an identity crisis, initially at least, when they realise what we are doing today. People were thinking in terms of three new local authorities taking on the local government functions in the Dublin area. They had not really considered that we are actually abolishing County Dublin. A question I was asked last night and could not really answer for example, concerned John O'Leary and Brian Mullins, who now find themselves living in County Fingal. Would they be eligible to play for the Dublin team? I do not know. Are they still to be called “Dubs”? When this legislation is enacted they will wake up and find they are no longer “Dubs”; they are “County Fingalians”.

Dr. Upton: The GAA is a state of mind.

Mrs. Doyle: However, we will not go down that road at this stage. That is an interesting discussion for another day. The identity crisis will be quite acute and when the public realise what we are actually doing they will have far more to [805] contribute to this debate generally. There will be postal address changes as a result of this legislation and the allegiance to the county of one's birth or adoption will be gone with the stroke of a pen. People now find that they belong to a county such as County Fingal that hitherto did not exist. This issue will be much bigger than what we have given consideration to up to now.

There are serious financial implications in this legislation for Dublin Corporation, particularly in the proposal to transfer land, land banks and housing stock to the new council in which the land and the housing stock might find themselves situated. These implications for the corporation include its ability to provide adequate land in its own functional area in the future to meet the housing needs within the city, with a housing list of over 5,000 facing it at the moment. Dublin Corporation will find that Tallaght, Clondalkin and Blanchardstown, for example, will be removed from the city housing stock allocation. The need for compensation for the loss of this housing stock, the rental income and land costs and the general eroding of the financial base needs to be examined in far greater detail. While it is appropriate in a Second Stage debate to point out my concerns in this area, I hope the Minister will be able to indicate on Committee Stage what arrangements will be put in place. It is not sufficient to say we will transfer responsibility for this area to the new managerial committee or to some subcommittee to decide on how best this can be put in place. Before enacting the Bill we need to know that adequate provisions for compensation will be in place. There is no point in making provisions if the new local authority cannot afford to meet the demands for compensation. We need to know where the funding for compensation will come from.

The present cumulative deficit of Dun Laoghaire Borough Council and Dublin County Council is, I understand, in the area of £22 million. How will that liability be divided up between the three new county councils? We need to know the Minister's views in this regard. This must [806] have been thought out in the pre-planning stage during the fine preparatory work that has been done up to now to get us to this point. What will happen the £22 million deficit? If it is divided equally among the three new local authorities, how will they be in a position to compensate Dublin Corporation for the massive loss of its land bank and housing stock? We need to know the Minister's precise thinking in this area and how this will be achieved.

In the explanatory memorandum and indeed in the Bill itself minor boundary changes are mentioned. The only controversial one, I am advised, is the proposed adjustments in the boundary between Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown and the South Dublin County. This will divide a parish, albeit along the lines of existing wards, and in fact will divide a housing estate into two different counties — part of the estate will be in County Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown and the other part will be in the South Dublin County.

Under section 10 the commissioner may fix a boundary to avoid minor anomalies. I would again urge the Minister when we reach Committee Stage to be in a position to indicate to the House how the type of anomaly to which I have referred will be addressed because it is a cause of concern for people living in this area and for the local electorate. It is fine to say that the housing estate is now in two wards, the boundary of the wards going down the middle. But those two wards are now in the one local authority. If the Minister is now going to make the middle of a housing estate the boundary between two local authorities, with perhaps service charges in one and not in the other or different rates of service charges in each one, he will cause friction and dissension and it is not advisable for the Minister to proceed with this. Now is the time to ensure that this does not go ahead.

Part IV deals with the list of what are referred to as consequential adjustments to various other bodies as a result of the abolition of Dublin County Council.

The necessary changes in the relationship of the membership of the Eastern [807] Health Board are dealt with. Apparently, no changes will ensue in relation to the vocational education committee structure that now exists. Higher education grants, heretofore dealt with by Dublin County Council, will be dealt with by the three new county councils. I note that a school attendance committee will continue to operate in the former Dún Laoghaire Borough. Might I suggest that perhaps we need to look at the overall question of school attendance committees — I realise it may not be the direct responsibility of the Minister present — but could the Minister bring it to the attention of the Minister for Education, pointing out that the overall problem of truancy and school attendance is becoming a major one particularly in inner city and major urban areas nationwide? Let us re-examine our overall school attendance procedures and regulations. Rather than merely stating there will be no change, there is need for an overall debate on this issue on another day.

I note also that the appointment of a member of the governing body of UCD is looked after, as is the overall issue of the coroner for the County Dublin area and consequential provisions in relation to the High Court and Circuit Court circuits, District Court areas, jury districts and courthouses. I note that the provisions of section 30 will continue in force the existing arrangements which apply in relation to the enforcement of the Weights and Measures Acts and that those of section 31 will allow the three new councils to make joint arrangements in respect of the performance of functions under the Abattoirs Act, 1988. The different aspects of that and the implementation of changes in this area will make for an interesting discussion on Committee Stage.

Section 32 of Part V is perhaps one of the most important sections in that it deals with the overall area of horizontal co-ordination at regional level of all State agencies and services. It introduces the whole concept of the need for a philosophy for Dublin embracing the entire [808] metropolitan region, which has been called for over many decades. I must say that response has been very limited in relation to the urgent needs in this area.

The Minister recently announced the establishment of regional authorities. Given the importance of the new structures we are debating today, in terms of their impact on the entire metropolitan area of Dublin side by side with this Bill we should be debating the Minister's concept of “regional authority”. We should know today from the Minister what will be the functions and structure of the Dublin regional authority. It is very difficult to accept the very radical Bill before us which, on the face of it, contains no detail in terms of what regional co-ordination will be put in place. The Minister did refer to a certain aspect of it but elsewhere, not in this House — he has not developed his thinking in this House in any great detail — he gave his views on regional authorities. I had hoped the Minister would have included such thinking in his introductory remarks but, in replying to Second Stage, would he please indicate clearly and in some detail his thinking on the role, structure and function of the regional authorities, particularly the Dublin regional authority?

The division of Dublin County Council into three new functional authorities can only be successful, and will only be accepted by people who care about Dublin as our capital — if you like, as the engine that drives most of the rest of the country — if they can know the Minister's views in terms of this “regional authority”. What we are talking about today will succeed only if we are quite sure what regional, co-ordinating structure the Minister has in mind. I would ask the Minister to put on the record at the next possible opportunity — which I suspect will be his reply to Second Stage — his views in this area. The Minister has spoken at various conferences, given a line here and there and most of us have put together a little bit, or have some idea of his thoughts, but the actual structure of the authority is extremely vague. For example, when will the establishment [809] order be signed and on what date will that come into effect with the new local authorities? On 1 January next?

Mr. M. Smith: Yes.

Mrs. Doyle: If it is to come into effect then, there is all the more need for us to have an opportunity to debate it in tandem with this Bill. It is not acceptable to keep that from the House. May I ask the Minister to assure the House that if we are not going to be able to debate the details of the Dublin regional authority side by side with this Bill the House will be given adequate debating time on the whole concept of regional authorities before the commencement date of 1 January next? As we all know, time passes very quickly in this House when one is seeking to debate any issue. I should have thought the ideal would have been perhaps a public announcement of the Minister's concept of regional authorities so that we could have discussed it along with our views on the division of Dublin County Council into three new local authorities. Perhaps before Committee Stage we could have the details so that we might incorporate the Minister's thinking and discuss it with him.

Mr. M. Smith: With the permission of the Acting Chairman, may I say it is relevant to this Bill? Of course, Deputy Doyle will appreciate that the establishment of the regional authorities is also relevant to the country as a whole.

Mrs. Doyle: Because of the size of the Dublin metropolitan area and literally because of the number of other areas it embraces, even if we are talking only about the greater Dublin area, we are not talking about four local authorities. There are many who would contend that greater Dublin also takes in part of what will become the mid-east region, that is parts of Counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, the peripheral counties. Therefore, no matter what way one describes the greater Dublin area — if you like, the commuter Dublin — it is essentially relevant to the Bill before us. It would [810] be far easier to impose a regional structure on other areas — Cork will have its difficulties also since it is a very big metropolitan area — but the critical “regional authority” will be the authority structured for the greater Dublin area. Indeed, the most difficult work to be undertaken by any regional authority will be that to be undertaken by the Dublin regional authority. Without being contentious in any way, before Committee Stage, I ask the Minister, either in this House or, as we have become used to now, “elsewhere”, to announce details of the regional authorities so that we could discuss them with him on Committee Stage. This would be very relevant to the provisions of section 32, which provides for the co-ordination of the four Dublin local authorities. It would then be very easy and in order for us to debate the Minister's concept of the Dublin regional authority which can then be transposed to the others. I presume the same system will work in Dublin as elsewhere. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give us this opportunity, because I do not think we will have another one, to discuss regional authorities or, if we do, it will be by way of statements for two hours some morning; it will not be a proper informed debate.

In the explanatory and financial memorandum it is said that:

Section 32 requires the three new county councils and Dublin Corporation in formulating policy and in implementing functional programmes to have regard to the interests of the combined functional areas of all the authorities and their inhabitants and to take all appropriate steps to ensure the co-ordination of relevant policies and programmes (including development plans)...

I should particularly like to hear the Minister's views on development plans, as this is a very contentious area. It was very contentious when there was only Dublin County Council——

Mr. M. Smith: I was alone. I did not [811] receive any support from the people opposite.

Mrs. Doyle: We had agonised, protracted discussions during the latest review of the development plan for County Dublin. Therefore, the co-ordination and function of a regional authority, such as it may be, in relation to the three development plans we will be facing shortly is an essential matter for the proper planning of land use and the physical planning of Dublin.

Mr. M. Smith: It is included.

Mrs. Doyle: If it is included, is the Minister saying — again he can answer later, I am not provoking answers——

Acting Chairman (Mr. Browne, Carlow-Kilkenny): I think the debate is getting somewhat out of control.

Mrs. Doyle: If it is included, could the Minister indicate to the House at some stage — these are questions we should have liked the Minister to have answered; we can always read the bits about a few managers being appointed here and there — the issues that matter in relation to Dublin——

Acting Chairman: While the Deputy may ask questions, the Minister will respond when replying but not directly just now.

Mrs. Doyle: I understand the procedure very well, Sir.

Mrs. Owen: We are trying to stimulate the Minister.

Mrs. Doyle: It is the type of question to which I would hope to receive a reply some time. I will not hold my breath just now. These are areas in respect of which we need answers to the greater questions that arise and on which we might have hoped for an elaboration in the Minister's introductory remarks. We might have hoped that he would have developed his [812] philosophy, if you like, in respect of the greater Dublin area. Rather, we got the nuts and bolts of the Bill. We were told what will happen where and what will be abolished there. We have read that and accept what the Minister is planning to do in that respect, but we are no wiser as to whether he has any philosophy for the greater Dublin area, whether he has any vision as to how he will co-ordinate the four local authorities that will henceforth be operating within what was formerly County Dublin or the remit of Dublin County Council. That is what I really want to know.

The Minister now tells me that there is provision to co-ordinate development plans under the provisions of section 32 of this Bill. I hope I do not take from that that the Dublin regional authority will have no role to play in relation to the co-ordination of development plans. I would like to think there is an overview that could draw together from the different functional areas what is best for the proper physical planning and land use requirements of Dublin for the decades ahead. We want to know what the role and function of the Dublin regional authority will be. It may be the final piece in the jigsaw that will make everything work and respond to the dozens of reports going back to 1910, to which the Minister referred in his speech, all of which are gathering dust on shelves somewhere.

Mr. M. Smith: They are not gathering dust now.

Mrs. Doyle: The Minister can take out a heap of those reports and dust them down. He should respond positively to the experts who have been crying out for change for the past seven or eight decades, and a regional concept of planning for greater Dublin and the country generally. The regional authorities may respond to that or there may be a damp squib — some sort of sop to the EC and monitoring committees for the disbursement of Structural Funds but will [813] they have teeth? Will they be regional authorities?

Mr. M. Smith: Calm down.

Mrs. Doyle: How will people be nominated to the bodies? When will the first set of elections to the regional authorities take place. How will the whole system work? Please share the secret with us because it is vital to the success of the Bill to have an effective Dublin regional authority.

Section 35, as well as the Third Schedule to the Bill, sets out arrangements for rationalisation of responsibilities for local authority dwellings and land in areas of the three new county councils in the city. This is a most vexed area. We will need details of the type of compensation afforded to Dublin Corporation for land they will have to cede to one of the new county councils and, indeed, for Clondalkin, Blanchardstown and Tallaght, other housing stock that apparently will now become the stock of the new local authority in which it is situated. Please let us know, given the enormous £22 million deficit that will be divided among the three new local authorities, who will pay whom and from where the money will come? At present there are 5,000 people in Dublin city on our housing lists. Will there be a communal housing list? How will people on transfer lists, who may wish to be transferred from one functional area to another when the Bill is enacted, be accommodated without a communal list? How will the whole housing problem be handled now that we have four local authorities looking after the housing needs of the Dublin Metropolitan area? I would like to hear the Minister's views on what will happen in this area.

Mr. M. Smith: Do not view all transfers as having automatic compensatory functions.

Mrs. Doyle: I am concerned about Dublin Corporation's ability to respond to its future housing needs if its financial base is weakened without compensation [814] and they have no land bank. If they will not all be compensated can the Minister tell us how Dublin Corporation's housing needs will be looked after? The Minister's response may answer our question. Regarding financial implications I find it difficult to accept that there will be no additional staff costs. That would also be the view of most staff in local authorities. However, I will not argue that point.

Mr. M. Smith: The Deputy must keep her party policy in mind.

Mrs. Doyle: Since 1985 one-third of Howth has been in the county council area and two-thirds in the city council area. Their wish is to become part of the city council area which is the natural and historic divide. Will the Minister consider an extension of the boundaries to include the whole areas of Howth in the city?

Mr. M. Smith: These are local matters.

Mrs. Doyle: A problem arises in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown regarding water charges. At present there are water charges in the borough but not in the area which will become the county of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. There are higher rates in the county area than in the borough area. I suggest there are major difficulties in transcending all these problems but there is no reference in the Minister's speech to them.

Regarding the library service there are two parallel services under the one city and county librarian. Can we expect four services now? The future of the library service and how it will be organised is important to many people.

I referred to my concerns about the co-ordination of physical planning and how it could or could not be achieved. For many decades proposals have been made and concerns expressed regarding the need for a regional dimension to development. In fact the Minister, in his contribution, referred to a number of reports and commissions, inquiries in 1880, in 1926 and 1938, White Papers and policy statements. For over 100 years concern has been expressed about the reorganisation [815] of local government, particularly the regional dimension and the structure of the local government system in Dublin. In 1930 it was thought that the Local Government Bill introduced then would solve the problem. We will not know until we see the Minister's philosophy for the management of the greater Dublin Metropolitan area whether this will work.

It is interesting to note that Seán Lemass, who had a great concern for the development of Dublin generally and before he became one of our better Ministers, speaking on the 1930 Local Government Bill in this House said:

There has been consultation about this question for 20 years, but nothing has been done. What is required is legislation power in the hands of some executive authority, so that the question can be properly dealt with... If we want to secure that the growth of the city of Dublin will be properly regulated, we must have not merely a town planning authority, but around the city a belt of virgin land on which building has not yet begun and over which any development that takes place can be properly controlled.

He went on at length giving his views in 1930 to the House. Between 1911 and 1916, on visits to Dublin, Geddes preached regionalism and regional planning and its importance to the Dublin region. The Civics Institute of Ireland took up his message and the Dublin Reconstruction Committee under A.E. Aston in 1922 saw the necessity for the co-ordination of land use and infrastructure in and around Dublin.

Almost annually for decades we have had experts telling the elected representatives at the time what was needed and urging us to concentrate on the problem but we did not do it.

Mr. M. Smith: We are doing it.

Mrs. Doyle: It is welcome 100 years later.

[816] Mr. M. Smith: We had the Control of Dogs Act, 1986. It is all bark and no bite.

Mrs. Doyle: If the Minister wants a constructive debate he can have it. I am as good as the Minister at acting the dog, literally, since the Minister mentioned the Control of Dogs Act. If the Minister wants the political skinhead treatment it would take very little to call in the troops and this Bill could be reduced to nonsense within two minutes. I happen to think that what the Minister is trying to do today is too important for that treatment.

Mr. M. Smith: Back up one line in the Bill.

Mrs. Doyle: I have been living in Wexford for the past 22 years. I am giving my age away when I say I spent the first 22 years in Dublin in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown as it will now be called. I have a particular interest in ensuring that the Minister gets this right.

Mr. M. Smith: The Deputy is not prepared to back it.

Mrs. Doyle: The Minister needs us to have an interest in ensuring he gets it right, he needs our help.

Mr. M. Smith: Back up one line in the Bill.

Mrs. Doyle: When the Minister is not being arrogant he will recognise the help he gets in this House from the constructive contributions of all members of the Opposition.

Acting Chairman: The Minister will have to cease interrupting.

Mrs. Owen: He is obviously a bit hassled.

Mrs. Doyle: This is a most important Bill. There are many problems in the detail of the Bill but these can be dealt with on Committee Stage. Will the Minister please indicate his concept of a [817] regional authority which is essential for the success of this Bill? Without the knowledge of that detail we can only give a lukewarm welcome to the Bill. Dublin is the engine of the economic, social and cultural growth of our country. Devolution is essential but, no matter what we do, it will be the metropolitan capital. It is very important both regionally and nationally. For a long time, particularly since the rather controversial review of the county council development plan during the past year or two, there has been much focus on how we handle the proper planning and future development of our capital city and the entire metropolitan region. The Minister will have whatever constructive help he needs from the Fine Gael Party and I am sure from the other Opposition parties. I ask the Minister to seriously listen to any concerns and to take on board any constructive changes that may improve this Bill. I urge him to think big when he is thinking about regional authorities and to ensure that he does not put a ring fence around what is now County Dublin and exclude commuter Dublin, which extends almost to Arklow on one side but certainly into Counties Wicklow, Kildare and Meath.

It is essential to make this work. Dublin is a very important part of our country. To introduce a Bill that promotes the abolition of County Dublin will be considered controversial by many people, but that is what we are doing. However, let us ensure that what we put in its place is worthy of replacing County Dublin.

Ms Keogh: Those of us who are elected members of Dublin County Council recognise that not only is reform of local government necessary but in the case of Dublin County Council is imperative and urgent. Because of the number wishing to contribute, the 78 Dublin county councillors have had the experience of waiting their turn to contribute and having to listen to endless repetition. I am sure others will agree with that.

[818] Mr. Rabbitte: In spite of the excellent chairman.

Ms Keogh: Obviously, despite the excellent chairman who does not let anybody ramble on too long.

I hope this Bill will be the start of a programme of devolution of functions, as proposed by the Barrington report, to a new, revitalised local government system, but I remain to be convinced. This Bill is not about reform as such but about re-organisation and management. In so far as it goes, I welcome aspects of the Bill, but other aspects need to be explained and amended. This Bill will not address the fundamental issues of local government, but it will make life a bit more manageable.

It is proposed to create three new administrative counties — Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, of which I am a member, Fingal and South Dublin. It gives statutory effect to the transition arrangements we have arrived at following a great deal of discussion. More discussion is needed. I believe we should be open to further discussion and that we, as local authority members, should have the authority to be able to make decisions. I am fearful that will not happen.

The tone of the Bill suggests to me that the Minister still has a great deal of power, because he has retained power to provide by regulation for certain matters and a great deal of power is vested in the management and officials of each county. I believe the essential reform of local authorities is to give more power to the elected members, but obviously we need to debate this matter further. I feel like the apocryphal passer-by whom the motorist asks for direction and who says: “Well, if I was going there I would not start from here.” I feel a bit like that about Dublin County Council, but I will try to be a bit more open-minded about the “there” we are going to.

Finance is fundamental to any Bill dealing with local government, but I am afraid it gets only a mention at the very end of the memorandum, where it is stated “There will be some initial cost for [819] the three new county councils in the startup phase but this should be marginal in the context of overall expenditure.”

I have a few words to say about finance in relation to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. If we are to talk about local government there should be some discussion about the vexed area of financing local authorities. Because this Bill deals with re-organisation rather than reform, it unfortunately avoids the issue. On Committee Stage we will concentrate on some of these issues and perhaps the Minister will give an opinion on how he feels we should deal with the many strains on the local authority purse.

It is not expected that there will be any increase in overall staff numbers. That may be so, but the statement that “no increase in Exchequer funding will arise as a result of any additional staff costs” makes me quake. Both the Minister and I know how difficult it is to find money — indeed, he finds it difficult himself — but those involved in local authorities find it dreadfully difficult to get anything done because the money is not there to do it.

I concur with my colleague Deputy Doyle's views on regional authorities. We had a very interesting meeting between members of Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation, but it was evident that nobody was aware exactly what was proposed for regional authorities. In the context of this Bill we need to know what the Minister proposes with regard to regional authorities and we need to know how it is proposed they will operate because we have all sorts of misconceptions about them. Misinformation arises when there is a lack of information and the Minister should address this lack of information on regional authorities.

I will comment in general before returning to a number of specific issues. Section 3 provides power for the Minister to make regulations and subsection (7) states: “The Minister may by regulation do anything which appears to be necessary...”. That seems to be all encompassing.

[820] Mr. M. Smith: I have been asked to get involved in so many things it is just incredible.

Ms Keogh: Let me tell the Minister that if he leaves us alone we will get on with local government.

Mrs. Doyle: The best kept secret is the Minister's philosophy on local government. Tell us.

Ms Keogh: I do not like government by regulation. If we are to have true democracy within the local authority we should not be treated like children. I heard one of the Minister's colleagues from the other party in the partnership Government——

Mrs. Doyle: In coalition Government. Get it correct.

Ms Keogh: ——describing debate within the county council as a dialogue of the deaf. I take great exception to that because I believe that with the new county council areas we will have good debate. If somebody is serious enough to put themselves forward for election to the local authority, he or she should be taken seriously and given the responsibility. Otherwise, what is the point? I am not interested in going to county council meetings and contributing to the debate, knowing that I might as well have stayed at home or indeed that I would have been better off to send a press release to the newspapers.

Section 6 deals with executive powers. Barrington says that too much power resides with the Executive and that true democracy entails giving more power to the elected councillors. I certainly would go down that road with Barrington. In section 11 (3) it is a bit uncertain who will decide when the annual meeting of each county council established under the Bill will take place.

Mr. Rabbitte: The Minister.

Ms Keogh: Yes, I thought that might be the answer. The Minister will decide [821] a great deal of what we are doing. Section 12 (3) says: “The first meeting of each of the councils established by section 11 shall be held on such day as shall be fixed by the Minister...”. We may let the Minister do that, but could we not have the freedom to decide?

I now come to Part III of the Bill. Deputy Doyle alluded already to this. It will be a bit like a county council meeting with all the repetition. There is concern about the boundaries and where the dividing line separates estates there will be difficulties, but perhaps they could be dealt with through the county council. I would not like the discretionary lines delineated at present to be written in stone if local councillors believe a problem may arise. Perhaps the Minister might be willing to discuss that at a later stage.

Section 18 of Part IV deals with the Eastern Health Board. I am concerned about the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area and I am sure I am ad idem with my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, in regard to this matter. We are concerned about the provisions of section 18 because, for example, if each council appointed three members to the Eastern Health Board the proportional representation would be peculiar. For example, Wicklow County Council's proportional representation would be one representative to 43,000 people whereas our representation would be one representative to approximately 68,000. An anomoly exists in that regard and there should be equality of representation. A difficulty also arises in relation to representation in the Dublin Corporation area vis-à-vis other county council areas and I would like that matter considered further on Committee Stage.

The matter of vocational education committees has received a good deal of discussion recently. A peculiar anomaly exists in relation to Dún Laoghaire because of the existence of the Dún Laoghaire Vocational Education Committee. The provisions of the legislation provide that the existing Dublin Vocational Education Committee and Borough of Dún Laoghaire Vocational Education Committee shall continue to [822] operate and existing members shall continue to hold office. Members of other county councils are concerned that councillors who continue to be members of vocational education committee boards will not be representative of, say, the political persuasion of the new county councils. I have no concern in that regard, but the matter has been brought to my attention. The proper way to address the matter would be to set up a local education authority in each county council area. A Green Paper on Education is being prepared at present and, hopefully, a White Paper will follow but, notwithstanding the publication of those papers, there is a widely held view that following the next local elections a local education authority should be set up in each county council area. However, it is appropriate that we should await the publication of the Green Paper on Education before pressing the matter further.

Section 21 provides that a school attendance committee will continue to operate in the former Dún Laoghaire Borough area and that existing members will continue to hold office. I came to this House by a circuitous route. I started my career as a teacher and career guidance counsellor before going into business and I hold a firm view in respect of school attendance. It is vital that all areas should have a school attendance officer. At one stage it was proposed to appoint school welfare officers, which would be very welcome. In this regard, the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area should encompass one area, not just the Dún Laoghaire Borough area. Local authorities need funding. It is most unsatisfactory that at present the Garda should have to deal with the matter of school attendance. That puts an unfair burden on gardaí and it is an area in which they are not trained. At present truants are not receiving proper welfare care. The Minister should discuss this matter with the Minister for Education and regardless of whether local authorities receive funding or the Department of Education deal with the matter, it should be dealt with urgently.

The Garda deal also with the matter [823] of weights and measures referred to in section 30 of the Bill. The onus in that regard should be on the three local authorities, but that matter can be dealt with in more detail on Committee Stage.

Part V deals with a range of miscellaneous matters relating to Dublin local authorities. The legislation states that managers must put in place procedural and organisational arrangements to facilitate co-ordination and the authorities must have regard to any strategy or statement of the Dublin or mid-east regional authority which are to be established by order under the Local Government Act, 1991. Will the Minister tease out that matter at the end of this debate? What exactly does the Minister propose in this regard? In which direction is he heading?

Section 33 will empower the new county councils to repair branch water pipes. Another peculiar anomoly exists in my area in that regard. Dún Laoghaire and Dublin corporations used the enabling legislation to assume responsibility for water service pipes in the city area to within nine inches of the curtilage of premises. Because of the type of difficulties with which I have had to deal on behalf of constituents outside the Dún Laoghaire Corporation area, the words “a principal authority shall do” might be more appropriate than the words “may do” in that section.

I would like to refer briefly to section 23 which deals with county cororners. I heard a brief interview on the “Gay Byrne Hour” some time ago with the county cororner who stated that he has no facilities whatever. He does not have a telephone or typewriter not to mention an assistant to type his reports. He has to avail of the facilities of the city cororner. That should not be the case and I ask the Minister to examine the matter.

Section 39 deals with regulations in relation to the borough area and is somewhat vague. I would like the Minister to give this matter more attention. Under this section we may be able to facilitate the provision of school meals. In the borough, school meals are provided whereas [824] in the county they are not. This type of anomaly should not exist. We are now starting a new county area and there should be uniformity in the provision of services. It would not be helpful in legislation to underline the divide in a totally new area. There has already been some degree of tension between those who are part of the old borough of Dún Laoghaire and those who are part of the greater Rathdown area. I ask the Minister to consider this.

There is great concern about the financing of local government and I hope we will have an opportunity to debate that issue in the future. All councillors are concerned about the financing of local authorities. The new county councils on 1 January next, unlike new businesses set up and well financed to do business effectively, will start off with a burden of debt. We already know of the difficulties involved in financing local authorities and this is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew. A business person would hate to start in business from a debit balance. One would like to start at least on level ground if not actually in credit.

Mrs. Doyle: There is a debt of £22 million between the three of them.

Ms Keogh: That is the reality and while it might be unrealistic to ask for that debt to be wiped out, the problem underscores the difficulties in funding local authorities. It is unreal to say that there are no financial implications in the restructuring because apart from the debts, costs are involved. In the case of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown there is the cost of merging two systems, a cost which the county has not taken on voluntarily but which has been forced on it. A case can be made for trying to find a way to finance setup costs generally over a period. This process can be costed and I do not believe it would be outrageous. Management in the counties would probably be in a position to give those costings, and funding should be made available for general reorganisation.

We have already referred to difficulties [825] in cases where some areas are charged rates and others are not. There is not just a difficulty because of divisions between counties. In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown the difficulty will be between the old borough area and the existing Rathdown area. A gesture has been made towards solving that problem but, without doubt, there will be a cost in regard to rate remission.

There is great concern also about the extra municipal area for which the city has been responsible which cost something in the region of £700,000. It has generally been agreed that that sum is not enough. More funds must be made available. I have asked the Minister to look at devolving functions before devolving powers to the local authorities. He knows that without the finance to back this up there is no point in getting the powers. I would not waste my time seeking further powers for local authorities unless I was convinced that there will be some finance to back it up. In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, for instance, there is a very low rate support grant, so we will just have to sit down with the Minister and find out exactly what he wants to do in relation to this.

I will table amendments to this Bill which is not about reform but about reorganisation. In general a great job has been done by the elected members and the management and officials of the various areas. We should build on that work but we cannot expect officials to work miracles in relation to funding. There must be genuine co-operation between the Minister, the Department and the local authorities so that funding is properly addressed.

In relation to the SIPTU merger it was acknowledged that mergers require funding which was provided through ESF funding. With more imagination much more could be achieved in the area of local government financing.

Mr. Gilmore: This Bill is about the reorganisation of local government in Dublin county but it must be looked at in the context of the reorganisation and reform of local government generally. As [826] this Bill springs directly from the 1991 legislation it would be appropriate for us to look at how the Government is faring with the programme of local government reform it promised. Notwithstanding the fine statements issued on a regular basis by the Minister, and his Ministers of State, that the process of local government reform is proceeding, despite the fact that most of those involved in local government do not see any great evidence of this, a critical examination of the Government's record shows that what is happening in practice falls far short of what was promised.

The local elections that were due to be held in 1990 were postponed for a year to allow the process of local government reform to proceed. In 1991 the Local Government Act was passed. In many respects that is fine legislation. However, it was rushed through the House and not subjected to the critical examination this House should have been allowed to carry out. For example, the titles of the new county councils in Dublin were never examined on Committee Stage. As a result one of the councils is now known as South Dublin County Council when it is responsible for west Dublin or, at best, south-west Dublin. This gives rise to confusion. This would not have happened if the House had been enabled in 1991 to debate the legislation in a proper fashion and examine it critically.

The 1991 Act provided for the indefinite postponement of elections at municipal level, that is, the urban councils and town commissioners. At the conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities last year the Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, announced that elections would be held next June and that a Government committee had been established to reorganise local government at that level. The first thing that should be said is that the holding of elections in 1994 to bodies last elected in 1985 hardly constitutes good local government reform. It does not say much for the Government's zeal in reforming local government that elections to local bodies have been postponed for a period of time — an interval of nine years — which [827] constitutes double the normal lifespan of those bodies.

We have not heard from this subcommittee since, even though it was to examine the question of the way in which local government at that level should be reorganised, whether the municipal authorities should continue essentially as urban authorities, as I believe they should, or whether the recommendation contained in the Barrington report that wider district authorities should be established should be implemented. It is a matter of regret, that in opening the debate today the Minister did not give us a wider view of his position on the question of local government reform.

Mrs. Doyle: He gave us nothing.

Mr. Gilmore: I honestly expected him to put the position in Dublin in context in terms of local government reform and outline the up to date position in regard to the municipal authorities.

I also expected him to make a statement on the question of local government funding. The Barrington Commission was precluded from examining this question. Successive Governments have failed not only to provide adequate finance for local government but also to face up to the financial problems facing it.

There is no doubt that the biggest problem facing local authorities is the lack of finance. This dates back to the time domestic rates were abolished. At that time they were promised that the shortfall would be made up by a grant in lieu of domestic rates, but this has not happened in practice. Under the 1983 Financial Provisions Act the “one for one” link between the grant in lieu of domestic rates and the sum collected in domestic rates was broken. The sum now made available bears no relationship to what they would have collected in rates. It amounts, depending on the local authority, to between £4 and £6 out of every £10 that they would have collected. Indeed, it is no longer known as the grant in lieu of domestic rates but rather the rate support grant. This confirms that it [828] is no longer the intention to make up the shortfall.

A study was also carried out by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, but we have heard nothing from them either since then. No substantial statement has been issued by the Government about where it stands on the question of local authority funding since the report of the Institute of Fiscal Studies was presented.

Legislation on local government is welcome, but making fine flowery statements at conferences and seminars are no substitute for real local government reform. What the people are looking for is a system of local government under which they would have control over their own environment and the way in which their local communities are run and under which local services would be delivered efficiently. Unfortunately, because of the financial crisis the system for the efficient delivery of services such as refuse collection, water supply and regular maintenance works is breaking down. Indeed the idea of new works to be carried out by the local authorities now belongs to the history books. As a consequence the public will continue to lose confidence in local government. All the legislative measures are no substitute for resources. The Government has failed to deal with that problem and I am very disappointed that the Minister made no reference to this.

“Devolution” is one of the buzz words used by the Government, whose performance in this area has been phony. Despite the fact that the then Minister made the finest of speeches when the 1991 Act was introduced in the House, many of its fine provisions have not yet been implemented. For example, those sections under which local authorities will be allowed to establish committees and joint committees to involve the community have not yet been implemented. As a result, if my own local authority, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, decide to establish a joint committee in conjunction with Bray Urban Council to deal with a particular problem, it cannot be established on a statutory basis.

[829] What are we getting instead? Periodically, press releases are issued by the Minister and his Ministers of State in which the new functions to be devolved to local government are listed. On the one hand meaningless functions are being devolved to local government, but on the other their real powers are being hauled back into the Department of the Environment. In the Planning Act, for example, the rights of local communities to lodge objections to planning applications have been greatly restricted, while in the Roads Act significant powers of the local authorities have been transferred to the National Roads Authority. In this regard a motion due to be taken at the meeting of Dublin County Council next Monday calls on the Minister not to proceed with the proposal to toll the ring road around Dublin, a project that has been dear to his heart for many years. Until the passing of the Roads Act that power was a reserved function of the elected members of Dublin County Council. It is no longer a function of the members of Dublin County Council but of the National Roads Authority. For all the talk about devolving powers on local government, here is a practical example of a power which elected members had until a few months ago that has now been taken from them, so that the elected members are now reduced to being petitioners petitioning the Minister not to proceed with the tolling of that road.

The same position obtains in regard to the way the Department of the Environment exercises its supervisory functions over local government. It now seems to be the practice not to provide the money for any project funded through the Department of the Environment if the local authority does not carry it out the way the Department wants. There is an example of that in my own constituency, what is known as the Church Road extension, where for a number of reasons the land take is not sufficient to justify building a dual carriageway. A debate has been going on between the local authority and the Department of the Environment for two years about the design of that road. The [830] local authority wants a single lane road incorporating cycle lanes while the Department of the Environment wants a four lane road. The latest communication from the Department of the Environment is to the effect that if the local authority does not carry out the project to the Department's specifications, it will not get the money.

That is not devolving power to local government; it is wielding the big stick and making a mockery of the way local government functions. This is a two-handed approach to local government, with fine public statements about devolution of functions and reform of local government; but in practice the proper functions of local government are being more and more centralised. Unless there is an end to that, unless power, budgets and money are restored to local authorities, there will be no real reform of local government.

The Bill before us arises from the 1991 Act, which provided that we would have in Dublin city a council and three county councils. At the time my view was that that was not the best way to re-organise local government in Dublin. I felt that the three authorities would be too big and that a better option would have been to have ten to 12 smaller local authorities serving populations of 50,000 to 100,000 people. I make the point now simply to put it on record because, given all that has happened, it is probably just of historical significance.

Notwithstanding the reservations about the format for the re-organisation of local government in Dublin, the management and members of the new Dublin County Council, which was elected in June 1991, proceeded promptly along the lines of the 1991 regulation, which in many ways put the initiative back in the hands of the three area managers and of the elected members. It is to the credit of the elected members — and I am a member of Dublin County Council myself — that it proceeded quickly to devolve on the area committees the reserved functions of Dublin County Council, that the area managers produced their re-organisation report within [831] the six months provided for in the Bill and that an enthusiastic approach was taken by management and members of the county council to get on with the re-organisation.

I understand, of course, that the production of legislation does take time; but I am concerned that although the re-organisation report was submitted 12 months ago we are only now, within the last two months of the life of the present county council and Dún Laoghaire Borough Council, debating the legislation on the re-organisation. It would have helped if we had had a longer period of time to debate the legislation. I hope that when we come to deal with this in committee there will not be an attempt to guillotine it. The 1991 legislation lost significantly because of the attempt to rush it.

There are a number of things in the Bill that I welcome, but I want to highlight a number of areas I am concerned about. First, continuing the theme of the phoneyness of the devolution of powers, I want to draw attention to the extent to which this legislation is peppered with references to ministerial powers and authority to override and oversee the new local authorities being established in Dublin. In section 3, for example, there is a whole range of powers given to the Minister for the Environment to make regulations for the general purposes of this Act in relation to any specific provision of the Act and in relation to any class or classes of local authorities. There is a wide ranging sweep up power whereby in any area, in any respect, the Minister for the Environment can make regulations and change regulations as he sees fit, effectively overriding the local authority.

That is not devolving powers on local authorities. Children in a kindergarten would have more autonomy from their nanny than the Minister is proposing to give the county councils. It is the same story in section 6 (4), which provides that the Minister may give to the relevant local authorities and the managers, including the area managers of those [832] authorities, such general or particular directions in relation to the execution of or compliance with any provision of this Act or regulations thereunder etc. In plain language, the Minister for the Environment can tell the councils or their managers what to do.

I intend to table some amendments to these sections. The Minister will have to make up his mind that powers and authorities are being devolved on local authorities so that the elected members of local authorities and their managers can work out their own relationships and get on with their job, subject to the law, without the Minister telling them what to do.

Similarly, the continuing power that Ministers have to abolish local authorities, to simply wind them up if they do not strike a rate or for whatever other reason, should be brought to an end. At the very least provisions for the dissolution or the standing down of a local authority should only be exercised here in this House.

The theme of continuity is strong in this legislation. There seems to be an undercurrent in the legislation that although Dublin county is being re-organised into three new county councils, things will continue as they were before. We find references to, for example, the school attendance committees and school meals services in the context of the borough area. Even though the borough is being abolished, the borough area will remain as an idea in this Bill because they cannot bring themselves to move that one step further and say that if children in Loughlinstown who are now in the borough get school meals, children across the road from them in Ballybrack who are in the county should also be entitled to school meals. That is having one's cake and eating it. In theory the Minister wants to set up a new county council, but in practice he wants to keep everything as it is. If county councils are reorganised matters cannot stay as they are. The idea of the borough area must go. The same rules should apply for school meals, [833] school attendances and other services throughout the county.

I agree with Deputy Keogh's point in relation to representation on bodies, particularly representation on the Eastern Health Board. Having only three representatives of the new county councils on the Eastern Health Board is not sufficient. Deputy Keogh quoted the figure of one representative per 68,000 population in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area. I understand the position is somewhat similar in the other two county council areas but the figures for Wicklow is one representative per 43,000 population and in Kildare it is one representative per 32,000 population. The new county councils should not be disproportionately disadvantaged vis-à-vis the other counties who have representation on the Eastern Health Board. On Committee Stage I will seek an increase in such representation. I am glad that the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council will have representation on the governing body of UCD. I am sure my colleague who will be representing the other two counties will ask why they have not been given representation on that governing body.

Mr. Rabbitte: The people in my constituency do not get to UCD.

Mr. Gilmore: It is standard practice that most local authorities have representation on that governing body. We will take two places on that body if the local authority Deputy Rabbitte represents does not wish to avail of its representation.

It is not proposed that the new authority will have its own vocational education committee. New education legislation is proposed but we do not know what will be included in it. We do not know if there will be vocational education committees. It is prudent to work on the basis of what exists. I understand for administrative and management reasons that it might not be advisable to immediately establish a vocational education committee in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. However, a time [834] limit should be introduced to provide that, with effect from the next local elections, the new authorities in the three counties will be enabled to appoint their own vocational education committees. In the meantime new education legislation may be introduced which may change that scenario, but that may not be the case and we must provide for that.

I welcome the transfer of responsibility in respect of housing lands to the new county councils. I welcome also the ending of the extra municipal areas the absurdity endured by people living in those areas. For example, if a water leak occurred on the main road outside one's house, the householder was responsible for the repair and that person had to get an instruction from the county council to carry out the repair and apply for a road opening licence to carry out the work. I am pleased the extra municipal area idea is at an end and that responsibility will be transferred to the new county councils. I agree with Deputy Keogh that there is a financial implication involved. It is clear that Dublin Corporation was underspending in the extra municipal area and the new local authority in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area will inherit a wornout system of water supply in that extra municipal area. Some financial recognition must be given to compensate for that.

In the context of the legislation, a case must be made for the new Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. It is the only authority where two local authorities are being merged. That has not happened at this level in this way before. Dún Laoghaire Corporation and Dublin County Council will be abolished and there will be a merger of two bodies. Much work has been undertaken by members and management to resolve matters. I wish to emphasise the difficulties this merger will give rise to. In relation to how the authorities transact business, there are different standing orders, practices and administrative systems. For example, there are different schemes of letting priorities in the housing area, different rent schemes and different approaches to land banks, the [835] management of land and to development plans.

There are two different commercial rates. There is provision in the legislation to converge them over a period of five years. That has a financial implication for businesses whose rates will increase faster than they would normally have increased during the five year period. This also has an implication for the local authority as it will not be collecting the full amount of money because of the convergence period. There are two different approaches to service charges: Dún Laoghaire borough has water charges and Dublin County Council does not have those charges. The new Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council will not get off to a credible start with the public if one of its first measures is to increase the commercial rates for businesses in one part of the county and impose new charges for householders in another part of the county who hitherto have not been burdened with such charges. Some of the convergence problems can be dealt with by the local authority but some must be recognised by the Minister and assistance must be provided to deal with them.

Reference was made to the debit balances which have accumulated between Dún Laoghaire Corporation and Dublin County Council and amount to £22 million. We cannot expect the three new county councils to get off to a proper start if from day one they are saddled with such debt. In the case of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council it is also saddled with the problems of trying to converge differing systems.

At the end of the explanatory memorandum reference is made to finance. I hope it is more than a passing reference. If finance is not provided to enable the new authorities to get off the ground the result will be disastrous. There is much precedent of cases where public bodies on being reorganised and merged are given finance to enable them carry out their work. Deputy Keogh referred to trade union mergers where finance was [836] provided. In the private sector when B & I was bought out its losses were written off and the amount of money involved was considerably more than is involved here. Where bodies were merged to provide a more efficient service finance was made available to facilitate such mergers.

The Barrington report recommended that in addition to the setting up of the new county councils a new tier of district authorities should be established in Dublin. I understand a map setting out the boundaries of the new authorities, and their memberships, was included in the report. I am disappointed the Minister did not refer to this report in his speech. We have not heard about those proposed Dublin district authorities for some time. I appreciate priority has been given to introduce this legislation and set up the county councils before proceeding to deal with the establishment of such district authorities. However, if local government reform in Dublin is to mean anything the proposed district authorities must be established. The Minister should indicate when it is proposed to establish them.

Mr. Haughey: I welcome the Bill which is significant. This is an important day when we are discussing the break-up of Dublin County Council and the creation of three new councils, Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. That clearly demonstrates the increase in population in Dublin and the necessity to continue to streamline local government procedures in view of that considerable increase in population.

As a member of Dublin City Council I am not directly affected by this Bill, but I will take an overall Dublin view of local government reform. I welcome this Bill. There is no doubt that, despite the best efforts of very good chairpersons, Dublin County Council procedures are chaotic. I understand from many members of Dublin County Council that motions tabled are very often not reached and become irrelevant in the course of time. Perhaps that position has changed recently, but there is no doubt that [837] Dublin County Council needs to be streamlined with a view to making it more efficient. There is a need for the efficient provision of local government services by these three new county councils.

Many Members referred to the overall programme of local government reform. There is no doubt that local government reform is needed, and this Bill is a step in that direction. Many local authority members believe it is unsatisfactory that every major decision — and indeed many minor decisions — require the sanction of the Minister for the Environment. The Minister initiated a programme of local government reform, outlining general principles, and we need to proceed without delay in that regard. Local government is important in a liberal democracy such as ours. It is an important tier in the democratic system.

In a united Europe it is very important that communities identify with Government structures, particularly local government structures. That certainly is not the case at present. There is a love-hate relationship between citizens and their immediate local government structure, which is probably due to the fact that there have not been reforms. It is important, therefore, that the programme of local government reform is implemented. More powers should be given to the democratically elected members. The whole question of finance also needs to be examined. Of fundamental importance to the whole question of local government reform is the financing of local government structures. That matter could be debated at length although it probably does not arise under the terms of this Bill.

I will deal generally with the economy of Dublin, the fact that Dublin is perceived to have a regional problem and is losing out in terms of employment and job creation, a very relevant issue in the context of local government. The new local authorities with Dublin Corporation and Dublin City Council must take a much more active role in promoting the economic development of their areas. Many submissions are made by groups such as the Dublin Chamber [838] of Commerce, the Dublin City Centre Business Association and so on regarding the economic situation in Dublin. Statistics prove that there is a higher unemployment rate in Dublin than in many other regions of the country. We need to promote our areas and encourage development in Dublin city and county. Many issues are raised from time to time in this regard such as the question of direct flights to Dublin, a matter which does not arise under this Bill. This question has been dealt with and that is to be welcomed. Another welcome step is the decision to locate EC agencies in Dublin. Provisions have been brought forward in the National Development Plan in relation to a national convention centre to serve Dublin city and county and indeed the county as a whole. That measure is also welcome. The three new local authorities and the corporation in general need greater tax incentives, more funding for housing renewal and greater resources to combat crime, a problem particularly relevant to the Dublin area. Dublin city and county also experiences particular transport problems and greater resources are needed to deal with these.

I will now refer to the question of the role of the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the title of the new councils being established today. I understand from the Bill that the title of chairpersons of the new councils will be “Cathaoirleach”. I have always believed that the Lord Mayor of the Dublin should play a major role in promoting the economic development of the city. Due to the centralised system of economic development in this country, the office of Lord Mayor is under-utilised. I found from experience that foreign investment in particular can be attracted through the office of the Lord Mayor. The office is highly respected in the United States and in the Far East where the title seems to have a major significance and certainly opens doors which would not be otherwise opened. I have always called for greater use of the office of Lord Mayor of Dublin. The Cathaoirleach of these new bodies should play a greater and more active role in promoting economic development of their areas. [839] They should take a hands-on approach, liaising with central Government organisations to bring about economic development.

Obviously everyone in Ireland understands the terms “Cathaoirleach”, “Taoiseach” and “Tánaiste”, although recently the British Prime Minister had difficulty with the pronunciation of the word “Tánaiste”. Perhaps we should revert to the term “Ard Mhaor”, or use the Irish term for the title of chairpersons of these new bodies and when travelling abroad a more familiar English term could be used if necessary. I ask the Minister to consider that matter.

I wish to refer to the development of the Temple Bar area in the context of increased involvement by local authorities in economic development. Dublin Corporation identified the potential development of the Temple Bar area as a cultural centre, a left bank so to speak, and brought forward a development plan for the area. I was fortunate to chair the committee set up by the Government to put forward recommendations for the balanced development of the Temple Bar area. When the report was produced it had to be handed over to central Government; local government did not have the power to implement many of the recommendations. I congratulate the Government on seizing this initiative and bringing forward legislation to establish various companies to promote the Temple Bar area. Despite some begrudgery, this initiative has proved very successful. It is an example of what can be achieved when a determined effort is made by central Government in association with the local authorities. However, in the context of further local government reform, it should have been possible to deal with this development at local authority level. This demonstrates the need for the further devolution of powers to local government.

I wish to refer to transport in the greater Dublin area. Obviously, this issue will be of concern to the three new councils. At present, manufacturing in the greater Dublin area, particularly in [840] Dublin city, is in decline. One of the reasons is the decline in the role of Dublin Port, as a result of inadequate access to the port. This issue is now under consideration and I understand that the Dublin Transportation Initiative is examining an access route for Dublin Port. Indeed, provision has been made in the National Development Plan for a port access route.

Three options are under consideration — the northern section from Belfast, through Whitehall and into the north port, an east-west tunnel and a designated truck line along the Royal Canal railway line. There is no doubt in my mind about the option the DTI should choose — the northern section from Belfast through Whitehall and into the north port. I would have favoured the entire port access and eastern relief route but, unfortunately, decisions taken have ruled out this option. Many residential areas on the north side of the city are plagued by massive levels of commercial traffic which should not have to travel through these areas. I hope that the DTI will opt for the port access route from Belfast, through Whitehall and into the north port. This access route to the port will improve the environment in many residential areas, particularly those on the north side of the city.

The disposal of waste and waste management are very controversial issues in the greater Dublin area at present. Dublin County Council has plans to develop a tiphead at Kill, County Kildare. These plans are at present before An Board Pleanála for decision and I understand there will be an oral hearing shortly. The people in Finglas who live adjacent to the Dunsink tiphead are fed up with the present situation. The lifespan of the Dunsink tiphead has long since passed and the people of Dublin have nowhere to dispose of their rubbish. This is a very serious issue. The development of a tiphead at Kill is the only option open to Dublin County Council. It is vitally important that this matter is dealt with as a matter of urgency. Obviously, the planning process has to run its course, but I ask the Minister to play an active [841] role in this issue. Obviously, I am not asking him to get involved in the planning process but he should pay more attention to the serious problem of waste disposal in Dublin, issue guidelines and become more active in dealing with this problem if planning permission is not given for the development of a tiphead at Kill, County Kildare.

As a member of Dublin Corporation, obviously I regret the transfer of responsibility for the land bank and housing stock in County Dublin to the new councils. Nevertheless, it is for the best that services be provided efficiently in these areas. The new councils will manage and allocate the housing stock in their jurisdictions. The financial consequences of this change for Dublin Corporation need to be looked at carefully. With regard to the provision of housing for the citizens of Dublin city, I appeal to the Minister for the Environment to make more funds available for the refurbishment of the existing housing stock. A programme for the refurbishment of the housing stock has been set in train but is hampered by lack of finance. I would encourage the development of small housing schemes in the city area. The days of the large housing estates are long gone. Consideration needs to be given to the type of accommodation which should be provided for people. The average family size is getting smaller — very often a family consists of two people. Careful consideration needs to be given to this point.

Finally, I wish to refer to economic development and the role of local authorities. Local authorities in general should become less bureaucratic, have an employment role and encourage enterprise and initiative instead of going out of their way at every possible stage of a planning application, grant application, etc., to discourage employment. Local authority employees should be more exposed to a business environment and seek to encourage people availing of their services to establish businesses. The three new councils should be pro-business and pro-entrepreneurship and less bureaucratic.

[842] Mrs. Owen: I wish to say loudly and clearly to the Minister that he will not get the kind of reform he is seeking or set up the proposed new local government structures in Dublin on the cheap, as implied in his speech. This Bill will not be worth the paper it is written on unless it leads to real devolution of power to the three local councils. Nothing in the Minister's speech gives me hope that the resources necessary for this devolution of power are provided for in the Bill. On Committee Stage we will tease out with the Minister where he thinks this money will come from.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.