The basic principle of this Bill is one which is right and proper and should be enshrined in law. However, I have a fundamental difficulty with the manner in which the Department of the Environment and Local Government, specifically the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, and his colleagues, have handled this issue from the outset. The problem which we are trying to iron out tonight as we near the end of this session arises from the fact that the original Planning and Development Bill was too vast, attempted to cover too many policy areas in one code of legislation and was not as exacting as it should have been.
I understand that the Government originally intended to include the provisions of this Bill in a specific section of the Planning and Development Bill but subsequently deemed it necessary to amend that as the Bill was not making the necessary progress through the House. The Bill was not making progress through the House primarily because pieces of law were added to and subtracted from the Bill at various junctures. From a parliamentary point of view, that was not satisfactory and we should not go down that road again.
At this late stage in the session, we find ourselves debating an issue which should have been resolved some time ago. The latest story in regard to the Planning and Development Bill is that the President, on the advice of the Council of State, has requested the courts to consider the Bill's constitutionality. The Government has displayed a complete ineptitude to deal with parliamentary business or to deal with specific tranches of legislation in an amenable or sensible parliamentary fashion.
I have some questions about the wide ranging regulations which comprise part of the first section. Throughout the Bill, there is evidence of extensive regulations which can be introduced by the Minister at any given time. Under section 1, paragraph (3) of the new section 47A provides that the Minister may make regulations for the purposes of this section and such regulations may provide for a variety of matters. It would have been far more sensible for us to have held a comprehensive debate on Committee Stage on the potential of those regulations and I regret that that did not happen.
This Bill relates to a very important aspect of local government administration and policy, namely, the role of the county manager. Increasingly, this is a pivotal position in terms of local government being able to deliver local services to people on the ground. It is vital that there would be continuity in the leadership provided by a county manager. One of the big problems currently besetting local government arises from the fact that a large number of companies within the private sector can readily recruit members of staff and senior officials from the sector. We are wit nessing that in the planning and development areas in particular. Many excellent public servants working in local government will understandably move to the private sector because the benefits and remunerations in that sector are far greater than they receive in the public sector. That problem must be addressed. A massive recruitment campaign is required throughout local government because it is currently very difficult to retain staff, particularly administrative and technical staff.
Will the Minister clarify his statement that the cathaoirleach and members of a local authority must be notified if a county manager wishes to stay on for an extra three years in addition to his or her original seven year contract? While I welcome that provision, I would like to know what would happen if local authority members refused, either by way of resolution or otherwise, to accept the county manager's application to prolong his or her contract. I am aware of the pivotal role to be played here by the Local Appointments Commission. If we are serious about giving local authorities local control, the elected members must ultimately have a greater say. In this age of supposed devolution, it will not suffice to use elected members as some kind of rubber stamp. We will return to this issue when we debate the Local Government Bill.
On the prohibitions outlined in the Bill in regard to the inability of county managers to transfer from bigger local authorities, does the Minister believe this is a wise provision? Is it fair that such restrictions should be enshrined in the Bill? I believe greater flexibility is required in our public sector regime in order that people can move from one local authority to another. Such transfers would ensure that best practice and good management skills would be extended throughout the entire local government sector.