Speaking following the publication of the an Bord Snip Nua report, Kilkenny City’s Mayor, Malcolm Noonan said that while the report has some worthwhile proposals, it largely fails rural Ireland and was written with a myopic Dublin worldview. Mayor Noonan is also critical of the report and its implications for local government funding.
‘Certainly there’s plenty of food for thought for Government in here’, he said. ‘However, proposals to downgrade rural Garda Stations and to merge small rural schools will further devastate rural communities who are already being hit by collapse in farm incomes, the loss of REPS and the removal of public transport routes. This is a hard nosed economic report and obviously it’s now up to NGO’s, and perhaps the ESRI to critique the document in terms poverty proofing and examining the social implications of each set of proposals’ he said.
‘From the perspective of Local Government, its very worrying indeed. A loss of up to ten percent of our central local government fund coupled with the dramatic drop in the Development Contribution Scheme means that funding for essential services and functions of Local Government is under serious threat’ he said. Mayor Noonan is of the opinion the Development Contribution Scheme was unsustainable anyway as it tied Councils to continuous construction development in order to fund itself and helped fuel the property and banking crisis. He said however that Local Government now urgently needs new ways of generating income autonomous of central government, in line with other European countries.
The Mayor also criticised proposals to remove funding for RAPID coordinators. ‘The RAPID programme for disadvantaged areas in Kilkenny like in other urban areas around Ireland has been hugely successful and very often the RAPID coordinator is the sole point of contact for many disadvantaged communities. The RAPID programme is needed now more than ever as poverty manifests itself in more and more areas’.
Finally the Mayor said that the report has put a dent in the ambitions of Kilkenny to expand the Borough Boundary as it is advocating the abolition of town and borough councils. ‘In order for Kilkenny to progress its ambitions we need clarity on this urgently. This is why I have asked the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley to address a joint session of both councils in October to address this, funding issues for local government and indeed the very future direction of local governance itself’.
I have asked the management to assess what deficits exist in water and waste water infrastructure and I will try to leverage funding to help advance these projects. Our priority in the city should be to try to advance the arts and public realm infrastructure, to prioritise the completion of the outer ring road and not to sink further resources into the Central Access Scheme bridge in the city.
He said in conclusion that local authorities still carry out and will continue to carry out many essential community functions such as the library service, arts, community development and heritage and environmental awareness. ‘We now have to focus on the positive and be proud as a Borough and County Council with what we have achieved to date, but we are looking at a complete root and branch reform of local government. Certainly a reduction in the numbers of elected members is on the cards, but An Bord Snip cannot put an economic value on effective local democracy and subsidiarity. Kilkenny Local Authorities are a model of efficiency and we must fight to protect the essential service we provide to the community’ concluded Mayor Noonan.