Local Government Reform Bill 2013: From the Seanad (Resumed)

The Dáil went into Committee to resume consideration of Seanad amendment No. 16:
Section 31: In page 41, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:
“Amendment of certain provisions relating to rates on vacant premises
31. (1) Section 71 of the Local Government (Dublin) Act 1930 is amended—
(a) by inserting the following after subsection (1):
“(1A) A local authority may—
(a) specify a local electoral area or local electoral areas within its administrative area where owners of vacant premises shall be entitled to claim and receive a refund of differing proportion of the municipal rate to that referred to in subsection (1), and
(b) determine the proportion of the refund to apply in respect of each specified local electoral area or local electoral areas in accordance with paragraph (a).
(1B) The specifying of a local electoral area or local electoral areas and the determination of the proportion of the refund shall be a reserved function.”,
and
(b) by inserting the following after subsection (3):
“(4) The Minister may make regulations specifying the financial considerations and administrative and other procedures to apply in relation to the performance by Dublin City Council of functions to which subsections (1A) and (1B) relate.”.
(2) Section 20 of the Cork City Management Act 1941 is amended—
(a) by inserting the following after subsection (1):
“(1A) A local authority may—
(a) specify a local electoral area or local electoral areas within its administrative area where owners of vacant premises shall be entitled to claim and receive a refund of differing proportion of the municipal rate to that referred to in subsection (1), and
(b) determine the proportion of the refund to apply in respect of each specified local electoral area or local electoral areas in accordance with paragraph (a).
(1B) The specifying of a local electoral area or local electoral areas and the determination of the proportion of the refund shall be a reserved function.”,
and
(b) by inserting the following after subsection (3):
“(4) The Minister may make regulations specifying the financial considerations and administrative and other procedures to apply in relation to the performance by Cork City Council of functions to which subsections (1A) and (1B) relate.”.
(3) Section 14 of the Local Government Act 1946 is amended—
(a) in subsection (1) by deleting “which is situated in a county but not in an urban area and”,
(b) by inserting the following after subsection (1):
“(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) reference to county rate shall include a rate adopted by a city and county council.
(1B) A local authority may—
(a) specify a local electoral area or local electoral areas within its administrative area where owners of vacant premises shall be entitled to claim and receive a refund of differing proportion of the county rate to that referred to in subsection (1), and
(b) determine the proportion of the refund to apply in respect of each specified local electoral area or local electoral areas in accordance with paragraph (a).
(1C) The specifying of a local electoral area or local electoral areas and the determination of the proportion of the refund shall be a reserved function.”, and
(c) by inserting the following after subsection (3):
“(4) The Minister may make regulations specifying the financial considerations and administrative and other procedures to apply in relation to the performance by a local authority of functions to which subsections (1B) and (1C) relate.”.”.

Deputy Naughten was in possession and we are dealing with amendment No. 16.

As I was saying earlier, I have a number of questions on this amendment. The Minister in his contribution earlier said that it was within the remit of a local authority to set a refund rate from 100% downwards. Is it possible that a local authority would allow for a full refund of rates and that it could be set at zero? My next question relates to how the legislation is written. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that the owner or occupier of a premises would have to pay the rates and then claim the refund, which has big implications in the context of cashflow for businesses. If that is the case, it is a weakness in the way the Bill is drafted, because I know that is not the Minister's intention here.

I can see the merit in this provision, which aims to release property back onto the market. Local authorities do not want people holding on to premises and letting them go into disrepair, thus dragging down the whole streetscape, but how would it work in a rural electoral area or division? In my own county of Roscommon, each electoral division covers a massive geographical area. While the issue may be relevant on one particular street in one particular town, it may not be applicable anywhere else within that electoral division. Is flexibility afforded to local authorities to designate a particular area within an electoral division? It seems that the way the provision is drafted at present makes it suitable for cities but not necessarily for rural areas. Indeed, it may even be a problem within cities, depending on how the electoral areas are divided. If, for example, the main thoroughfare is the dividing line, with a very dispersed area on one side and a highly commercial area on the other side, the local authority might decide to apply different refund rates in each area, which would mean different rates would apply to either side of the street, which would not make sense. I ask the Minister to clarify the situation in that regard.

More flexibility and discretion needs to be given to individual local authorities in terms of how they apply business rates in particular circumstances, especially in the current economic climate. One issue that is particularly relevant to a county such as my own and to other rural counties is the need to be able to vary the rate based on the size of premises. To give an example, in County Roscommon, 5% of ratepayers pay 50% of the rates. A 1% reduction in the rate to those ratepayers would give them a saving of €653 on rates that are in excess of €20,000 per annum, which is a minuscule saving to them. However, a saving of €653 to the 95% of ratepayers who pay the other 50% of the rates collected would make a significant difference to those businesses in terms of their longer-term viability. A scheme in place in the United Kingdom since 2005 called the small business rate relief scheme allows for rate relief for businesses up to a certain threshold. I believe the threshold is currently £5,000. Could the Minister investigate the feasibility of doing something like that here? We know that the biggest difficulties are faced by the very small retailers who are being squeezed by the major retailers in the towns. If one wants to see good footfall on the main streets in towns and commercially viable town centres, those small businesses need support, because they encourage people to come in and walk through towns. I ask the Minister to examine that issue further.

We need to do more to encourage small business start-ups. Many Deputies would have come across situations in which an individual wants to set up a new business but finds that there is a significant overhang of a rates bill on a preferred premises. That usually comes up when a property is being sold. The overhang is carried with the property. I know this issue has been raised previously and it is addressed in the legislation-----

It is dealt with in the next amendment.

That is welcome. The other issue is the possibility of giving a rates exemption to new businesses which do not have an impact on an existing business within the catchment area. The term "displacement" is used by the Department in the context of Leader funding. Leader programmes can fund a particular project if it does not have an impact on another project within the same catchment area. I suggest that a similar provision should be put in place for rates. Let us say, for example, there is a town which does not have a shoe shop. The local authority for that town could decide, in conjunction with the retailers, to exempt for two years a shoe shop established on the main street, which would increase footfall - literally - into the town and would also benefit the other businesses. That would help to alleviate some of the pressures on businesses. I hope the Minister will give it some consideration.

As other Deputies have said, this particular provision was introduced in Dublin, Limerick and Cork with the objective of mobilising properties where landlords were sitting on them. There is a difference of opinion on this, and the circumstances of each of the local authorities will determine how they might implement such a scheme. There is a provision in the development contribution scheme which allows for derelict sites to have a lower or higher development contribution rate applied if a local authority wants to enhance development. Obviously, if the rate is lowered, this incentivises people to develop sites. Such an incentivised scheme under the development contribution scheme might apply to people who receive grant assistance from Enterprise Ireland, the IDA or the local enterprise board and could be targeted at particular areas.

There is discretion for local councillors to do this under the existing development contribution scheme. I am conscious of what Deputy Denis Naughten said about rural areas where it would be ideal to have a targeted response to commercial rates. The Deputy will have an opportunity to discuss that issue in the debate on the valuation Bill because commercial rates can only be applied based on the overhaul of the valuation scheme. Committee Stage of the Bill will be taken in the Seanad next month. I have no difficulty with the sentiments expressed, but I cannot deal with them in the context of the Bill under discussion.

It is a refund scheme and in theory the letter of the law means that one must apply a refund to something that has already been paid. In practice, there will be engagement with local authority officials where there is no difficulty in entering into arrangements with the landlord in question in the event of difficulties with cashflow or where he or she may not have the money, depending on circumstances. We can specify a pragmatic approach in the guidelines we will lay down in order to address a situation where one will not have a cheque coming in one door and another going out the other on the same day. In practice, local authorities will have discretion to enter into arrangements. A refund could range from nil to 100%. It is up to the elected members to decide on a local electoral area basis or a combination of local electoral areas. I have ensured as much discretion as possible under the scheme and it is entirely up to elected members to decide on a reserved function basis.

That summarises the position. A number of other matters were raised by the Deputy in terms of varying the rate and targeting responses. All of these issues will be matters for discussion in the debate on the valuation Bill.

This is a significant improvement on what was contained in the original Bill, which specified that it would be 100%. The Minister clearly accepted the point, as most of us argued that it was likely to be unworkable because there would be huge variations in letting a premises in Dublin city centre as opposed to somewhere in the midlands or west. We should acknowledge the significant change that has been made. One of the positive aspects is that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Individual local authorities will have discretion because there will be wide variations, including within counties and cities. I presume it will work in the same way as the current system whereby some local authorities give a refund to a premises occupied by an entity with charitable status. In fact, no money changes hands. While a bill is issued, the amount is written off at the end of the year. I presume that is the way the system will work.

The Minister mentioned development contributions which will be changed significantly following the setting up of Irish Water. According to the delegates who appeared before the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht in recent weeks, there will be a rationalisation of development contributions. We have heard that a uniform approach will be taken and that the money will go from local authorities which collect it to Irish Water. A sizeable amount of the development contributions collected will be for water and wastewater. Apart from change of use, the bulk of the development contributions will be paid for new builds. Payments based on change of use will account for a small proportion of the overall amount. Very often development contributions are not even levied where there is a change of use. A case in point would be a premises used as a hairdresser’s where a lot of water is used as opposed to a sweet shop. I do not understand the Minister’s point on the impact of development contributions because we are talking about premises already in place. He referred to rebates being given for unoccupied premises. I do not understand the relationship with development contributions from that point of view.

The Minister has said rates will be levied at county or city level, as opposed to municipal level. He has also said the refund will be decided at municipal level as opposed to local electoral area level. How does that match with the construction of the rate at plenary level, for want of a better term? Will this be decided at municipal level before one strikes a rate? Will it be decided once a year? How does the Minister anticipate that the system will work in practice?

It is a decision made by the council which might decide to change it on a reserved function basis from year to year or every couple of years or it might not decide to change it at all. It is a matter for it to decide. I want to give maximum discretion to the elected members to decide the matter for themselves. It will be done on a local electoral area basis, namely, a county basis. There is a slight difference between the municipal district and local electoral area. That is the basis on which rates will be decided. It could also be done by a combination of local electoral areas. I wish to provide for the maximum discretion in order to cover the issues raised by Deputy Denis Naughten which might be more applicable to his constituency than to Deputy Catherine Murphy’s. There will still be variations under the refund scheme. If one gives discretion to councillors and each local authority can apply the maximum discretion, there will be variations. I hope the rates will be more reflective of local circumstances on the basis that one size does not fit all, as Deputy Catherine Murphy correctly pointed out.

Councillors make decisions on the development contribution scheme. There is provision, for example, for derelict sites, a point made by Deputy Denis Naughten. The rationale behind the scheme was to deal with commercial rates on the basis that a premises might be abandoned because a business might not be able to pay the rent or it could fall on difficult financial times and the site might be empty for some time before a new tenant could take over. There is provision in the development contribution scheme for derelict sites. If a property has not been occupied for a considerable time, it will fall into disrepair. Councillors have discretion to address the issue. The provision could be seen as an incentive, on the one hand, and a disincentive, on the other, through the commercial rates mechanism. The background is that maximum discretion is provided in order to mobilise property and put it into commercial use or give it an enterprise function. Deputy Catherine Murphy should examine the rates and the development contribution scheme in their totality in terms of incentivising properties to be put into use and generate economic activity.

Many of my questions have been answered. I welcome the amendment which was discussed at length on Committee Stage when concern was expressed by Members across the board about the original proposals. Some local authorities were happy to retain the 50% refund which had been in place for many years. The Minister referred to Dublin, Limerick and Cork in that regard. They might have become accustomed to the revenue stream, while others might have been lobbying for this. It is definitely not a case of one size fits all. The rates refund is directly related to demand which is substantially different in city centres compared to towns and villages. The Minister has listened and shown that there is an economic difference between some of the cities I mentioned and towns and villages. It is important that councillors will have the power and discretion to judge for themselves and be accountable for whatever rate refund measure they implement in their local authority area. Everything is related to demand. We have many vacant properties in towns and villages and especially in rural areas. The Minister will be aware of this in his own constituency. We must try to do all we can to incentivise town and village centre renewal. Measures have been taken to encourage residential use over shops and increase footfall in towns and villages.

Any action we can take to incentivise this must be taken. I am concerned that some local authorities might use the power for another revenue-raising stream without taking any cognisance of the economic challenges faced by many towns and villages. There are reasons certain properties are vacant. We certainly do not want landlords squatting on them. If that is the case in certain urban areas, it will give councillors the power to address this issue. However, there could be towns and villages where property is vacant simply because the demand is not there. It would be unfair to impose another burden on these properties in such circumstances. We need to strike a balance in this regard and I hope the amendment will give discretion to local authorities which are better placed to measure the needs and economic activities in their respective areas. I welcome Seanad amendment No. 16.

I, too, welcome the amendment. I notice the Minister’s two party colleagues from Waterford are in the Chamber. The statement springs to mind about the 20% reduction in rates in Waterford thanks to the Minister’s grant. I am not sure if my memory serves me correctly, but if it does, I would not mind some of the grant going to my local authority.

They are merging authorities. The Deputy’s is not.

I agree with previous speakers, particularly Deputy Denis Naughten’s point on the valuation Bill which is being dealt with by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin. It is important that the Minister’s Department feed into it. He referred to the concept of flexibility. I have spoken to county managers, many of whom do not want flexibility in the area of rates because they believe they would be under pressure from councillors, Deputies or Ministers as a result. It is important, however, that there be a rate-setting mechanism that meets people's requirements and that is practical and pragmatic. While the Minister has reiterated that it is not an issue for today, it is important to realise, while having a rate set on a premises based on square footage, that turnover could vary year in and year out. Such a model is not fair, sustainable or practical.

Deputy Denis Naughten has pointed out that 5% of businesses in Roscommon pay 50% of the rates. Local authority management has used this as a mechanism not to reduce rates, with the argument being that the ones that will benefit will be the larger firms which can easily pay. There should be a tiered mechanism for rates. It is important that the Department feed into the valuation Bill with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. If the issue comes up on the floor of the House when we are dealing with that legislation, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will probably be reluctant to take any amendments on it.

I know the Minister does not like to get involved with independent bodies, but some decisions taken on the breakdown of different local electoral areas, to the man on the ground, have no pragmatic basis. In some cases, there is not even a mathematical basis to the divisions. It may be no harm to look at this in an objective way in order that when the next revision of local authority boundaries happens, the same mistakes will not be repeated.

It is my understanding - the Minister can correct me - that the local area authority will set the rate and that the moneys raised will go into the county pot. The kernel of the issue is vacant properties. In Greystones, for example, there is a limited number of commercial units. Accordingly, owing to high demand, if one were empty, it would not be for long. Today it was pointed out to me by the president of Arklow Chamber of Commerce that there was not the same demand in that town. The local authority in Arklow will, therefore, pitch a zero rate for a vacant property. In Greystones the local authority might be anxious for the premises to be occupied, as there is a demand for it. Accordingly, it could pitch the rate at 50% or 100% for a vacant property.

The difficulty arises when it comes to the moneys raised in this manner going into the county pot. If the rate were zero in Arklow, pressure would come on councillors in Greystones in asking why the moneys raised by way of a 50% rate in that town should go into the county pot. Is there merit in subdividing the moneys based on empty premises that come from a local electoral area? Should Greystones, in the example I have just used, get back the moneys raised on empty premises to be put into its own area pot as opposed to a wider county pot? Accordingly, if councillors in Arklow, Wicklow or Baltinglass decide to have a zero rate, they should get back zero moneys. The danger in all of the money going into the county pot is that the lowest common denominator might win out and there would be pressure in the Greystones area to set the rate at zero.

Deputy Paudie Coffey was concerned about the fact that this provision could become a revenue-raising mechanism for local authorities. That is the price one pays for democracy when devolving functions. It is up to the local authority membership to decide, most of whom I expect to be pro-enterprise and practical individuals elected by the people to present initiatives that will be pro-employment. This is an important vehicle by which we can meet the objective of mobilising property into employment creating opportunities. The commercial rates refund scheme is not a revenue-raising mechanism but a policy instrument to meet certain objectives in local authority areas.

The valuation Bill is on Committee Stage to be taken in the Seanad next month. I have fed into that Bill as I agree with having a joined-up approach to these issues. It is critical legislation in meeting some of the targeted responses for small businesses that Deputies Billy Timmins and Denis Naughten have mentioned. All of us will be keeping an eye on that legislation’s progress.

On the examples of Greystones and Arklow given by Deputy Billy Timmins, it must be remembered that these are difficult decisions that councillors in each municipal and local elected area need to make. It will depend on the budgetary arithmetic in each county. I am sure one will have a different view on this issue at the plenary sessions in the local authority areas in County Wicklow. That is the way it is. One has to argue the point and get the majority on side for whatever devolved responsibilities and reserved functions I will give to councillors to allow for maximum discretion in dealing with this issue. I am delighted some Deputies referred to the difficulties one might have with devolved responsibilities because on Second Stage I was told there was not much in the Bill on devolving functions at local level. It is gratifying to hear the concerns Members have about giving too much power to local councillors.

The Minister is priceless.

It is also gratifying to hear the concerns Deputy Billy Timmins has about how one cannot depend on councillors to have a discretionary basis between Arklow and Greystones. I agree with him as there are particular instances in this regard that we both share.

As regards interfering with an independent Boundary Commission's report, the Deputy knows me long enough to know I would not do that. I am sure there would be a fair amount of activity on all sides of the House about where one should draw any line in terms of political interference.

I thank the Minister for listening to representations made by Deputy John Deasy and me on the refund of rates allowable on vacant premises. Deputy John Deasy, on his own initiative, started working on this issue. As I agreed with his proposal, I began working with him. We recognised that what was appropriate in one area of a county would not necessarily be appropriate in another. Being able to give a refund on a vacant premises should be allowable in some places but not in others. It is also appropriate that councils should have discretion in this regard because, after all, local authorities should be much more familiar with the situation on the ground than central government. I thank Deputy John Deasy for initiating this amendment and the Minister for listening to our suggestion.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 111 are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 17:
Section 32: In page 42, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“Duty to inform rating authority of transfer of relevant property
32. (1) In this section—
“occupier”, in relation to property (whether corporeal or incorporeal), means every person in the immediate use or enjoyment of the property;
“owner”, in relation to a relevant property, means a person (other than a mortgagee not in possession) who, whether in that person’s own right or as trustee or agent for any other person, is entitled to receive the rent of the property or, where the property is not let, would be so entitled if it were so let;
“relevant property” shall be read in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Valuation Act 2001.
(2) Where relevant property, or an interest in relevant property, is transferred from one person to another person in circumstances that render that other person liable for rates on the property so transferred, then—
(a) it shall be the duty of the owner of the property (being the owner of the property prior to transfer) or such other person as the owner has authorised in writing to act on his or her behalf to notify, in writing, the rating authority in whose functional area the property is situated of the transfer not later than 2 weeks after the date of the transfer, and
(b) it shall be the duty of the person transferring the property being either the occupier or the owner, to discharge all rates for which he or she is liable for at the date of the transfer of the property or of an interest in it.
(3) Any rates due by an owner of relevant property and not discharged in accordance with subsection (2)(b) shall remain a charge on the relevant property, but that property shall not, as against a purchaser in good faith for full consideration in money or money’s worth or a mortgagee, remain charged with or liable to the payment of such unpaid rates after the expiration of 12 years from the date upon which the amount concerned fell due.
(4) The owner of relevant property shall be liable for a charge equivalent to no more than 2 years of the outstanding rates due from the previous occupier or occupiers where—
(a) the owner has not notified the rating authority in writing of a transfer of relevant property or an interest in relevant property in accordance with subsection (2)(a),
and
(b) the requirements of subsection (2)(b) have not been met.
(5) Any charge due by an owner of relevant property and not discharged in accordance with subsection (4) shall remain a charge on the relevant property, but that property shall not, as against a purchaser in good faith for full consideration in money or money’s worth or a mortgagee, remain charged with or liable to the payment of such unpaid rates after the expiration of 12 years from the date upon which the amount concerned fell due.
(6) Any charge levied under subsection (3) or (5) does not affect—
(a) the liability of any previous occupier for outstanding rates in respect of which he or she is primarily liable, or
(b) the functions of the rating authority concerned under any other enactment to collect any outstanding rates from the occupier or occupiers primarily liable.”.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 17, in the names of Deputies Deasy and Dowds, is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 17 not moved.

As Members are aware, rates are a stable source of financing for local government and make an important contribution for the provision of local services. I have been concerned with an aspect of rating legislation that in my view gives rise to an unfair burden on new occupiers of rateable property, be they companies that wish to expand, relocate or start up. The subsequent occupier provisions contained in the Poor Relief (Ireland) Acts 1838 and 1849 determine that occupiers can be held liable for up to two years' worth of unpaid commercial rates of the previous occupier.

I am taking the opportunity in amendment No. 111 to repeal those provisions and eliminate this financial burden for new occupiers to ensure that any possible barriers to enterprise development are removed. Removing this liability offers the possibility that property that may otherwise have remained vacant and unoccupied can now be re-let, thus improving opportunities in the property market and reducing the incidence of vacant commercial properties. The amendments to this effect are set out in Part 4 of Schedule 2.

At present, there is no requirement for property owners to notify the local authority of a change in property ownership or when a new tenant takes up occupation of the premises. This can create a difficulty for local authorities in establishing who should be liable for commercial rates and often can lead to costly legal cases and an additional burden on staff resources. Short-term lettings also contribute to the challenge with both issues, resulting in a loss of income to the authority, which is passed on indirectly to other ratepayers in the form of higher local authority charges. It is in this context that I am taking the opportunity in amendment No. 17 to introduce a new duty to inform the local authority of the transfer of rateable property, be it a change in ownership or tenancy, in order that the local authority is in a position to ensure liability can be established as soon as it falls due. The amendment details the nature of these requirements and the penalty for non-compliance. Subsection 2(a) places an obligation on property owners to notify the local authority of a change in interest within two weeks of the transfer. This includes a transfer of ownership or tenancy where the person to whom the interest transfers will become liable for rates. This therefore applies in circumstances where the new owner takes up occupation of the premises or a new tenant is moving in. It does not, therefore, apply where ownership of the property is changing and there is no changing occupancy, that is, the change in ownership does not affect the existing tenant.

Deputy Dowds and I expected our amendment to be ruled out of order because it put a financial charge on the State. I thank the Minister and his officials for dealing with our amendment and the variation that has resulted from the amendment we tabled. The reason we tabled an amendment was very simple. We both had spoken to local government officials who were being placed in an invidious position. In many cases, they approached us and told us that while they really should not be writing off any arrears on rates, they could not afford not to. They needed to keep money moving within the local economy and while on the one hand they endangered themselves because the local government auditor could have told them that what they were doing was completely wrong, on the other hand they believed themselves to be in no position to try to stop sales or leaseholds from going through because there were arrears of rates on particular properties. There is a sense of inevitability about this clause and this amendment the Minister has introduced today. For a long time, local government officials have been anxious to deal with this issue because they did not wish to hold up a sale or a leasehold.

However, there is a flip side to this, namely, that approximately €300 million to €400 million is owed in arrears at present. In this context, the Minister must keep an eye on officials and there must be checks with regard to the writing off or writing down of arrears, once this provision goes through. It is a matter about which I have spoken to the departmental officials and obviously, the State must be conscious that a significant change is being enacted into law as a result of this amendment and that it requires monitoring. The reasoning as to why arrears are being written down from henceforth by local government officials must be examined. Again, there is an inevitability about this. The key point for Deputy Dowds and me was that many parts of the country are going through desperate economic times and in some cases, the arrears on a particular premises were holding up its sale or leasing and this needed to change. The reason for this is that local government officials were going by the book, which did not make sense. I am glad the Department and the Minister have examined this issue and the change has taken place.

The Minister mentioned devolution when responding to a number of Members and I note that one criticism, which I had come across in the past year, has been addressed holistically in this legislation, which is that local authority officials really believe the Valuation Office does not listen to them. The officials do not believe that the office takes into account the local knowledge they possess and when contact or communication is made, by and large the Valuation Office invariably tells them that it is none of their business. There is a weakness in the system but as far as this legislation is concerned, it deals with it. For the first time, it actually hands back discretion, to a great extent, to the local authority officials and councillors, which is a good thing. It is a start and is a significant step towards shifting the balance from Dublin to the local authorities, wherever they may be.

I also welcome this amendment, which is something on which I have been working for some time. Representatives of new businesses came to my office to raise concerns about how they had moved into premises and were being held liable for the rates that had built up on them. This was becoming a barrier to new businesses regenerating themselves in towns and villages. Subsequently, as the Minister is aware, I published the Poor Relief (Ireland) (Amendment) Bill 2013 to try to address this problem. The Minister mentioned the Act that has been in place heretofore goes back as far as 1838, which has no meaning in the modern economy. I welcome the efforts made by the Minister to address this problem. Many local authorities subsequently voted to support my Bill and I understand they also have written to the Minister's office. I certainly am satisfied there now has been movement in legislation to address this anomaly or barrier, as I would describe it, to allow new businesses to open on the high streets and main streets of villages, towns and cities and that those who are trying to start afresh will not be held liable for rates that have not been discharged by the previous occupiers. It is welcome that the Minister again has listened and this will help many new businesses as they try their best to start up in the current climate.

Briefly, in respect of the issue concerning the Valuation Office, this is an example of where central government does not always listen and this is something to which all Ministers must be in tune. This is even more the case for the permanent government, because anyone who is Minister must listen to his or her electorate and so on. As a result, Ministers receive representations whereas the permanent government can be quite removed from what life is like on the ground. There is a message for Members here.

In response to Deputy Dowds, I note that Ministers make decisions based on advice from all sources, political and otherwise. I will take responsibility for my actions in respect of the contents of this Bill. Certainly, I seek to ensure that discretion is given to local authorities as far as possible and that barriers to economic activity are removed, wherever they may be. This was highlighted by Deputy Coffey's Bill but other people also have been in touch in respect of these matters. However, I agree with Deputy Deasy that there is a need for monitoring to ensure the local government auditor ensures this provision is not being abused.

An unintended consequence of that might be a reduction in local government income arising from the fact that certain managers might feel much more discretion than was the intent and purpose of this provision. This is a provision for the purpose of enhancing the opportunity for economic and employment activity. It is in the spirit of what I am trying to do in a number of the amendments we have seen in the last hour.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 18:
Section 34: In page 43, line 17, to delete “, 13, 14(3) and 15” and substitute “and 13, subparagraphs (3) and (4) of paragraph 14 and paragraph 15”.

This is a technical amendment that addresses an omission in the list of consequential provisions in Schedule 4 to the Bill that shall not apply in the case of the dissolution of county and city development boards. Schedule 4 is primarily designed to provide for transitional arrangements as between local authorities that are being dissolved, such as town councils, and their successors regarding matters such as transfer of assets, liabilities, staff, etc., and the continued effect of certain matters decided by the dissolved bodies. This amendment is for the insertion of paragraph 14(4) dealing with local authority housing to the list of excluded provisions that are already set out in section 34(4)(a), as this relates to an area in respect of which the development boards had no remit.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 19, 22, 31, 37, 50 and 52 are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 19:
Section 34: In page 45, line 1, to delete “relates.”.” and substitute the following:
“relates.
(8) Section 45 shall not apply to meetings of the Committee.”.”.

The amendments to be taken in this grouping relate to the establishment and functions of the local community development committees. Amendment No. 19 addresses an omission in the published Bill. It proposes that section 45 of the Local Government Act 2001, relating to the attendance of the media and public at local authority meetings, shall not apply in the case of local community development committees. Although the LCDCs will be local authority committees, their roles and functions will differ considerably from those of other local authority committees. A significant element of the LCDC work will be the consideration of funding applications. This work will involve confidential and commercially sensitive information which it would not be appropriate to discuss in the presence of the media and the public.

Amendment No. 22 proposes to include youth organisations within the meaning of "representatives of local community interests" set out in the Bill. Specific provision for youth organisations reflects the Government and EU priority of focusing on supports for young people, particularly in the area of training, upskilling and employment supports.

Through Amendment No. 31 I seek to clarify at section 128B(1)(g) that the aim of the Bill is to optimise the use of public funding as it relates to publicly funded local and community development supports. As currently drafted, 128B(1)(g) might be interpreted as charging the committees with improving the efficiency with which all public authorities use the full range of the resources, not just local and community development supports. This would go beyond the proposed remit of the committees and, accordingly, the provision has been amended.

Amendment No. 37 provides that when the chief officer is seeking nominees for the local community development committee, he or she shall do so in consultation with the corporate policy group. This will provide for an important input into the process for the elected members via the CPG. The focus would be on identifying the sectors to be represented on LCDCs rather than selecting individuals. In practice, nominating organisations will select their own nominees and submit them to the chief officer. He or she will have no role in selecting the individual nominees, nor will the members of the CPG, and this will be provided for in regulations.

I seek to make two minor amendments in this grouping. Amendment No. 50 addresses an omission from the original Bill, which did not provide for guidelines of a general policy nature to be issued in respect of the local community and development committees. Amendment No. 52 corrects an incorrect cross reference at section 128G(1) in the published Bill.

I received some communication from the local development consultative groups, or members of them, who had various protracted negotiations and discussions on the alignment process. They had hoped some of their recommendations would be considered in the amendments here today. There is some disappointment in that regard. Would the Minister comment on those issues and the submissions made by various civil society organisations that are not specifically provided for in the make-up of the local development companies into the future? The Minister has inserted youth groups to cater for them, but there was an understanding that there might be representation of some minority groups such as women's organisations, Traveller groups or migrants' groups.

The other issue was that the groups would remain at arm's length or autonomous in their own right. I am conscious that the mechanism of auditing must come from Europe and I wonder how their wishes can be adhered to in this regard. It may be difficult, but could the Minister comment on that? Could he elaborate on their recommendations? The communications I received last week came from 14 or 15 groups. The process that was put in train was welcome at the time, and I would have hoped its recommendations might have been implemented. Are there any legacy issues from that process regarding industrial relations? Is there any carry-over there or any issues that are left behind and have not been resolved? What process is in place to address any existing differences in industrial relations?

Some groups expressed concern that because they are not listed in the Schedule to this Bill they were being excluded. That is not the case. All we have on the Schedule is the people with whom we are contracted. That does not exclude anybody in the future in terms of the relationships that will be developed between the community and voluntary sector and local government. We have the Father Seán Healy recommendations on that and the alignment process is ongoing in how we align the EU programmes and the local development company work with local government. I expect all this will conclude very shortly regarding the EU programmes, but we must comply with the bottom-up approach regarding EU programmes, and that is why a majority on the LCDCs must be from the community side.

Just because a group is not in this particular Schedule does not mean we are excluding it. We will have the opportunity to bring people together, but they will have to make choices between themselves. We cannot put every representative group on all these committees or we will have a very unwieldy structure, but we will do our best to put down guidelines for local authorities to comply with.

The legacy issues will have to be dealt with by the private companies. All of these local development companies have private company status now and all I can do is say what their overall financial provision should be. We had a debate last week about micromanagement. In this instance I have to leave it to the private companies to decide their priorities and how they will allocate the moneys and for what programmes. The completion of this programme means that a new programme will come into effect in 2015 and we will have to wait and see what the outcome will be in terms of the administrative and financial support they will have left during this year to see whether they will cease operations under this contract before we transfer the contract to the LCDCs. We will work through those issues with the people involved.

There were some pilot alignments. Offaly was one of them. Have recommendations emanated from that process for the wider alignment due to take place into the future, and can the Minister give an assurance that they will be taken on board?

We are conscious of the experience of the front-runners on alignment and will be having another meeting of the alignment group in approximately three weeks' time. Hopefully we will be able to reflect on and iron out some of the issues that have arisen in the context of the front-runner groups.

I take the Minister's point about the groups not being named, but the correspondence we received was from approximately 12 groups including the Community Workers' Co-operative, the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Pavee Point and One Parent Exchange Network. I presume they will be included. The points they made were about more than just not being included in the Schedule. They said the Bill would legislate for significant levels of control over community development.

They are concerned in regard to their involvement or participation. They feel distanced from the democratic process as it stands and this will make things worse. They also believe there is a significant enhancement of ministerial powers, but I would like to hear the Minister deny this is the case. The report of the working group on active citizenship is imminent, but the community sector is concerned that the working group did not consult with it. The group may have consulted in some areas, but not with them. These community groups are the most vulnerable and I would like confirmation from the Minister that the community sector has been properly considered in regard to this initiative and how the relationship between local government and the sector can be improved.

I am trying to bring the community and voluntary sector into line with the democratic structures at local government level. For the first time, the community and voluntary sector will now have a statutory remit and relationship with local government, which it does not have currently. Companies operate on a stand-alone private company basis or they expect to get money from various Departments, irrespective of what their work is. They will certainly go through difficult circumstances if they do not know what funds they will have from year to year. They cannot plan too far ahead.

The organisations that are listed in the Schedule are those which are existing contract holders with the Department. This does not mean that the people who have written to Deputy Murphy, to me and to Deputy Cowen will be excluded in any way. That is the reason I asked Fr. Seán Healy to bring a representative group together and to come up with recommendations that will feed into the process of creating the necessary structures of engagement that will report to a democratic process, not to central Government. It will report at local level as far as possible - as close as possible to the citizen.

This legislation is not about vested interests, no matter whether they are community, industrial or farming interests. This is about the overarching legislation that is required that will help decisions to be made at local level as much as possible. It relates to the general community and economic development of the areas. There will be more opportunities available to these groups and these will be provided in a structured and democratic way.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 20 and 21, Nos. 23 to 30, inclusive, Nos. 32 to 36, inclusive, Nos. 38 to 49, inclusive, No. 51, Nos. 53 to 57, inclusive, and Nos. 60 and 61 are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 20:
Section 35: In page 45, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“ ‘community elements of the Plan’ means those parts of a local economic and community plan relating to the local and community development of the functional area of the Committee pursuant to section 66B;
‘economic elements of the Plan’ means those parts of a local economic and community plan relating to the promotion of economic development of the administrative area of the local authority pursuant to section 66B;”.

I said earlier that I had not encountered the procedure for the Clerk's correction previously, but I have another correction to be made now. I request the Clerk's correction to the listing in the Bill, consequential on amendment No. 34, in order to correct a drafting error. On page 215, line 5, I ask that the reference to 128G be changed to 128F. I am sure this change will not impinge on the work.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Amendment No. 61 is the most crucial amendment in the grouping. Under the new section 66A to section 66H provisions, local authorities and the local community development committees are to be tasked with preparing integrated local economic and community plans for their areas. These plans will have economic and community elements, which will be prepared separately but in parallel. The local economic and community plan provisions will ensure that balanced local economic and community development will be undertaken in accordance with the principles of sustainable development and that this development will be led and co-ordinated by the local government system. This function will be central to the new functions of local authorities. It will add to the current function in promoting the interests of local authorities, and in that context I propose amendment No. 60.

Amendment No. 20 provides for definitions of both community and economic elements of the integrated plan to be added to section 128A and, through amendments Nos. 21, 23 and 24, Nos. 26 to 30, inclusive, and Nos. 53 to 56, inclusive, for specific references to the plan in section 128B to be replaced by reference to the community elements of the plan or those elements of the plan, as the case may be. Amendment No. 25 will enable the plan and provide for harmonisation of the planning period of the community elements of the local economic and community plan with other local authority planning processes, including the economic elements of the plan and the new regional spatial economic strategies.

Amendment No. 32 will provide a role for the LCDC in the development of the economic elements of the local economic and community plan. Amendment No. 34 deletes from section 128C of the published Bill the references to the local and community plan, as the new provisions of sections 66A to 66H will now provide for the local economic and community plans. Amendment No. 40 follows from the proposals for the making of the local economic and community plan, including the making of regulations in regard to the new integrated plan. Accordingly, the provisions of section 128F(2)(c), covering the making of regulations for the stand-alone community plan, are now not required. This amendment also provides for the making of regulations in respect of administrative arrangements for the LCDC meetings, such as scheduling and notification of meetings. This had not been provided for in the original Bill.

Amendment No. 42 makes a minor adjustment to the provision for making regulations relating to local and community development committees by removing the power to make regulations on reviewing the plan, as this will now be covered in the new section 66H. As a consequence of these deletions, technical amendments to renumber the provisions being inserted by section 35 of the Bill are covered by amendments Nos. 33, 35 and 36, Nos. 38 and 39, Nos. 42 to 49, inclusive, and Nos. 51 and 57.

I have a note here on amendment No. 61, which is being discussed in conjunction with these amendments.

These amendments are led by amendment No. 61, as technical amendments result from it.

In the proposed new section 66H, to be inserted by amendment No. 61, in subsection (1), the reference to 128E is to be changed to 128F.

Yes; I request the Clerk's correction to the text of amendment No. 61 in order to correct a drafting error. In the new section 66H proposed to be inserted by amendment No. 61, in subsection (1) the reference to 128E should be changed to 128F.

Am I to understand that the local community and economic plans replace what was the county development plan?

Yes, or they are included in it.

Will each municipal district not carry out a separate economic and community plan?

We will deal with that in the next amendment.

So that will be included?

We will have a look at it.

Will it be like the old development plan, within which there were development plans for towns of a certain size and beyond, or will it be the municipal district in its entirety?

Leading on from this, may I ask a relevant question regarding the status of county development plans? In regard to the Westmeath and Offaly plans, Westmeath recently varied its development plan and Offaly has begun the process of initiating a new development plan. Both counties are specifically looking at the wind energy strategies of their development plans. They are seeking expertise within the local authority and assimilating that with councillors' knowledge and previous experience and have seen fit to propose a draft plan. This process would involve the engagement of the communities, the county and those within them. Particular attention is being given to the area of wind energy, particularly in view of the efforts being made by many companies to progress agreements with landowners in the expectation of making planning applications to An Bord Pleanála. Based on the fact the applications are for permission to export under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act, these permissions can be applied for directly from An Bord Pleanála.

This being the case, many see fit to make overtures to owners of land outside that designated in existing or proposed development plans. One cannot stand in the way of how people go about their business, but the Minister must refute the suggestion by some that a moratorium can be placed on the planning of such developments. My understanding is this would be unconstitutional and I need someone in authority to confirm this.

The Department is an authority obliged to be informed of the process and therefore is entitled to make submissions, as is any member of the public. Various bodies such as An Taisce are informed of the planning process of making a development plan. Submissions in Westmeath and Offaly have indicated the provisions in the draft plans in both cases are at great variance to the understanding and direction given in guidelines, whether statutory or otherwise. This is quite worrying and I understand the frustration of many councillors in both authorities who, despite their best intentions, the engagement they pursued with local communities and various groups, and trying to act in accordance with the wide-ranging opinions therein, state they feel they were then rubbished by the Department's submission. Will the Minister confirm the hierarchy of development plans and guidelines? Councillors need to be mindful of these when they meet again to discuss the issue. They need direction from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the process.

I am also conscious of the fact a national guideline consultation process is under way, as are separate processes for developments for home produce and developments for export. I am also conscious of reports today that the EU stated our targets on wind energy and other forms of energy are reduced compared to what they were previously. It gives the impression there is no uniformity, direction or path on which everybody understands the process will travel. There appear to be many tributaries coming into the path, but no organisation or methodology behind the various strands being brought together.

We have national guidelines, which have not yet been put in place, to take account or cognisance of the advancement of size and technology in the area, development plans which are making every effort to get up to date, and those drawing up the plans and public representatives are making every effort to accommodate the opinions and views of those they represent and, having assimilated all of this, bring about a development plan which can be workable. However they are then told by the Department they have wasted their time. This creates great confusion and I would like the Minister's opinion on it.

Amendment No. 61 is very comprehensive in that it covers everything from the economy to community development and upskilling. I realise this is local government legislation as opposed to planning legislation but they are intertwined. There is ongoing criticism that development plans are, in the main, physical and there is an expectation of delivery of items included in them which often does not happen with regard to facilities essential to the development of a community.

I have been through numerous development plans and it takes quite a sizeable effort to construct them. We do not want legislation which states very good things but does not deliver in practice. I accept the Minister is doing workforce planning in the Department, but if these plans are to be constructed in a real and comprehensive way that add the layer we need so the local government system is a facilitator of the community and voluntary sector which is so successful in the country it will require people to put them together. In some local authorities this might be possible but others are very deficient in terms of numbers relative to the population they are trying to serve or may not have the disciplines within them. I am very interested to hear what the Minister has to say. What we do not want is a great debate on the issue and for the Minister to have worked on a lot of detail and then for it to fall by virtue of the fact there is no prospect of its implementation because of insufficient staff. There are wide variations in staffing. Meath County Council has half the staff of Kerry County Council but 30,000 or 40,000 more people live there. These variations make a difference to the delivery of services and to the depth and quality of what can be delivered at local government level. If we are to get beyond the point of only speaking about physical plans and building communities as opposed to buildings and structures this aspect will have to be facilitated by way of ensuring it is capable of being delivered in terms of having staff to do it.

There will be no change in the status of the county development plan and local area plans will be done at district and municipal level. We have the national spatial strategy, regional planning guidelines, the county development plan process, local area plans and municipal level. The hierarchy is familiar to everybody. Local elected members will have a more devolved say at local area plan level, without reference at plenary level to other parts of the county or city.

These amendments are with regard to community and economic plans and not on county development plans. They consider how we will set in train specific provision for the community as well as an economic plan. There will be economic plans in the future but they will not be merely spatial or physical development plans. It will be an integrated approach to take account of the economy, the environment and the community. It will be drawn up in parallel and integrated and subsequently approved by local elected members.

With regard to the specific concerns expressed by Deputy Cowen on what is happening in the midlands and wind energy, we are conscious of the fact all local policy must be underpinned by national policy. This is why national and regional guidelines which have been laid down must be adhered to by local elected members and local authorities in the context of their development plans. With regard to wind energy, work is being done by the Department and Minister with responsibility for energy on a national policy on renewables and general energy. I understand local authorities will consider varying the plans on wind energy when they know exactly the national policy which will underpin it. It does not affect or provide any moratorium on existing development plans; it is in the context of plans being drafted or examined at present which have not been adopted yet.

There will be no moratorium on existing planning applications going through Offaly County Council or Westmeath County Council, most of which I presume will subsequently end up before An Bord Pleanála or if there are major projects that are before the board in terms of the strategic infrastructure that they have indicated in their application. However, it would make sense in the context of the development plans that are being examined currently for the elected members to be mindful of the fact that work is being done on a national basis and they can vary their wind strategy accordingly when they see how it fits in with national policy that is likely to emerge in the autumn of this year.

Seanad amendment No. 25:

Section 35: In page 46, line 12, to delete “5 calendar years” and substitute “6 calendar years”.

Seanad amendment No. 30:

Section 35: In page 46, line 35, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “the community elements of the Plan”.

Seanad amendment No. 35:

Section 35: In page 49, line 17, to delete “128D. (1) Subject to” and substitute “128C. (1) Subject to”.

Seanad amendment No. 40:

Section 35: In page 51, to delete lines 12 to 30 and substitute the following:

“(c) procedures to apply to ensure fairness and equity in the decisions of a Committee,

(d) the involvement of public authorities and other bodies and interests in the work of a Committee,

(e) the carrying out, management and control of the administration and business of a Committee and any administrative, secretarial and other support of a Committee, including the delegation of functions by the chief executive for the purposes of such support, and

(f) meetings and proceedings of the Committee, including arrangements relating to scheduling and notification of meetings and meeting agendas.”.

Seanad amendment No. 55:

Section 35: In page 53, line 21, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “community elements of the Plan, and the Plan generally,”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 21:
Section 35: In page 45, to delete line 24 and substitute the following:
" ‘Plan’ means the local economic and community plan to which section 66B relates;".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 22:
Section 35: In page 45, line 34, after "section 128," to insert "youth organisations,".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 23:
Section 35: In page 45, to delete lines 38 to 41, and in page 46, to delete lines 1 to 10 and substitute the following:
"(a) to prepare and adopt the community elements of every 6 year local economic and community plan concerned in accordance with section 66C and any regulations made, or general policy guidelines issued, by the Minister for the purposes of that section,
(b) to implement, or to arrange for the implementation of, the community elements of the Plan (as the case may be) as made by the local authority in accordance with section 66C(4),".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 24:
Section 35: In page 46, line 11, after “of” where it firstly occurs to insert “the community elements of”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 26:
Section 35: In page 46, to delete lines 15 to 17 and substitute the following:
“(i) to amend the community elements of the Plan, or
(ii) to prepare and adopt new community elements of the Plan to be made by the local authority under section 66C,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 27:
Section 35: In page 46, line 22, before “the” to insert “the community elements of”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 28:
Section 35: In page 46, line 23, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “the community elements of the Plan”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 29:
Section 35: In page 46, line 25, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “those elements of the Plan”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 31:
Section 35: In page 47, lines 4 and 5, to delete all words from and including “to” in line 4 down to and including “and” in line 5 and substitute the following: “improve the efficiency with which publicly-funded local and community development resources are used,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 32:
Section 35: In page 47, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:
“(h) to consider and adopt a statement in respect of the economic elements of a draft of the Plan prepared by the local authority in accordance with section 66C, and”
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 33:
Section 35: In page 47, line 6, to delete “(h) not later” and substitute “(i) not later”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 34:
Section 35: In page 48, to delete lines 27 to 43, and in page 49, to delete lines 1 to 15.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 36:
Section 35: In page 49, line 41, to delete “section 128F” and substitute “section 128E”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 37:
Section 35: In page 49, line 42, to delete “shall seek” and substitute “shall, in consultation with the Corporate Policy Group, seek”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 38:
Section 35: In page 50, line 21, to delete “128E. (1) The chief” and substitute “128D. (1) The chief”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 39:
Section 35: In page 50, line 37, to delete “128F. (1) The Minister” and substitute “128E. (1) The Minister”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 41:
Section 35: In page 52, line 4, to delete “section 128D(2)(g)” and substitute “section 128C(2)(g)”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 42:
Section 35: In page 52, to delete lines 10 and 11.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 43:
Section 35: In page 52, line 12, to delete “(h) procedures” and substitute “(g) procedures”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 44:
Section 35: In page 52, line 14, to delete “(i) matters” and substitute “(h) matters”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 45:
Section 35: In page 52, line 15, to delete “(j) consultation” and substitute “(i) consultation”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 46:
Section 35: In page 52, line 18, to delete “(k) co-ordination” and substitute “(j) co-ordination”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 47:
Section 35: In page 52, line 21, to delete “(l) implementation” and substitute “(k) implementation”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 48:
Section 35: In page 52, line 24, to delete “and”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 49:
Section 35: In page 52, line 25, to delete “(m) matters” and substitute “(l) matters”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 50:
Section 35: In page 52, line 26, to delete “section 128G.” and substitute the following:
“section 128F, and
(m) any other matter of a general policy nature that the Minister considers appropriate for inclusion in the guidelines.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 51:
Section 35: In page 52, line 28, to delete “128G. (1) In this section” and substitute “128F. (1) In this section”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 52:
Section 35: In page 52, line 33, to delete “section 126C(4)” and substitute “section 126L(3)”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 53:
Section 35: In page 53, line 13, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “community elements of the Plan, and the Plan generally,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 54:
Section 35: In page 53, line 14, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “community elements of the Plan”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 56:
Section 35: In page 53, line 29, to delete “the Plan” and substitute “community elements of the Plan, and the Plan generally,”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 57:
Section 35: In page 54, line 2, to delete “section 128G(2)” and substitute “section 128F(2)”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 58 and 59 are related and may be taken together.

Seanad amendment No. 58:
Section 40: In page 58, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:
“(b) by substituting the following for subparagraph (i) of subsection (3)(b):
“(i) the representation of each local community development committee established in accordance with section 49A and of sectoral interests,”.”.

The amendment will enable the local community development committee, LCDC, to be represented on the new economic development and enterprise strategic policy committee. Separately, through Seanad amendment No. 63, I will delete the requirement that the LCDC be represented on the corporate policy group. There was a concern on the part of elected members that an external member or an unelected member could be on this group and, therefore, I am responding to those concerns and deleting that requirement. In lieu, this amendment provides that the guidelines governing membership of the strategic policy committees will be amended to enable the Minister to require the LCDC to be represented on the economic development and enterprise strategic policy committee. In the normal course, the guidelines will provide that this representative will be chairperson of the LCDC but if the chairperson is an official of the local authority, the representative will be another nominee of the LCDC.

Amendment No. 59 is a drafting amendment to correct the title of the strategy to Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. The word "regional" was inadvertently omitted from the Bill as agreed by the House previously.

Seanad amendment No. 59:

Section 40: In page 59, line 5, after “regard to the” to insert “regional”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 60:
Section 42: In page 60, line 1, to delete “section 67” and substitute “section 66B or 67”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 61:
Section 43: In page 60, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“Local economic and community plan
43. The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following sections after section 66:
“Interpretation (sections 66A to 66H)
66A. In the relevant sections—
‘Committee’ means a local community development committee established pursuant to section 49A;
‘Plan’ has the meaning assigned in section 66B;
‘relevant sections’ means sections 66A to 66H.
Local economic and community plan
66B. (1) Each local authority shall make, in accordance with section 66C and any regulations made, or general policy guidelines issued, by the Minister for the purposes of that section, and the principles of sustainable development, a 6 year local economic and community plan (in this section referred to as the ‘Plan’), which shall be referred to as the ‘Local Economic and Community Plan’, prefixed by the name of the local authority concerned, and the Plan shall be for—
(a) the promotion of economic development in its functional area, and
(b) the promotion of local and community development in its functional area.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), promotion of economic development includes but is not limited to—
(a) creating and sustaining jobs,
(b) promoting the interests of the community, including—
(i) enterprise and economic development across economic sectors,
(ii) foreign direct investment,
(iii) indigenous industry,
(iv) micro-enterprises and small and medium sized enterprises,
(v) tourism, and
(vi) agriculture, forestry and the marine sectors, and other natural resource sectors,
(c) identifying local attributes that are essential—
(i) to enhancing local economic performance, such as the quality of the environment and the qualities of cities, towns and rural areas, including—
(I) accessibility, physical character, and infrastructure,
(II) employment opportunities and quality of life, and the means by which these may be utilised to enhance competitiveness, and be supported by investment decisions relating to economic infrastructure (including transportation, water services, energy, communications and waste management), together with social and cultural facilities, and
(ii) to promoting local economic activities,
(d) supporting enhancement of local innovation capacity, including investment in research and development capacity, technology transfer, up-skilling and re-skilling,
(e) identifying, for existing and prospective businesses, opportunities to engage with local government on relevant matters in setting up and managing their businesses and to ensure speedy and coordinated access and response,
(f) identifying local strengths and opportunities, weaknesses and deficiencies relevant to economic performance and—
(i) in relation to such strengths and opportunities having regard to economic and employment trends, the means of maintaining and augmenting them, and
(ii) in relation to such weaknesses and deficiencies, the means of addressing or rectifying them,
and
(g) identifying economic potential and the requirements to realise it.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), promotion of local and community development includes, but is not limited to—
(a) promoting and supporting the interests of local communities, or any part of a community or group within a local community, including measures to enhance quality of life and well-being of communities and measures aimed at—
(i) tackling poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion through support for basic services and other initiatives,
(ii) supporting training and up-skilling, creating and sustaining employment and self-employment opportunities, and investing in local development through community-focused supports and services, and
(iii) the provision of infrastructure and community facilities and investment in physical regeneration and environmental improvements,
(b) supporting the capacity of local communities to improve their quality of life,
(c) supporting social enterprise, social capital, volunteering and active citizenship,
(d) developing integrated and evidenced-based approaches to local service planning and delivery,
(e) identifying the needs and priorities of local communities to enhance their well-being, and developing sustainable solutions that make the best use of local assets, strengths and opportunities to address those needs and priorities,
(f) exploiting and co-ordinating funding sources from the public, private and community and voluntary sectors to stimulate and support local development and sustainability, and
(g) promoting, supporting and facilitating community involvement in policy development and decision-making processes related to the planning, development and delivery of services.
(4) Every Plan made pursuant to subsection (1) shall be consistent with—
(a) the core strategy and the objectives of the development plan (being the development plan for the purposes of Chapter I of Part II of the Act of 2000) of the local authority concerned, and
(b) any regional spatial and economic strategy or, as appropriate, regional planning guidelines (being a strategy or guidelines for the purposes of Chapter III of Part II of the Act of 2000), that apply to the area of the Plan, and shall consist of a written statement which may include objectives for the sustainable development of the area of the Plan.
(5) (a) Without prejudice to subsections (2) and (3), the Plan to which subsection (1) relates shall include and integrate—
(i) economic elements in respect of local economic development,
and
(ii) community elements in respect of local and community development.
(b) Each local authority shall, without prejudice to and, in accordance with section 66C and any regulations made or policy guidelines issued by the Minister for that purpose, draft the economic elements of the Plan.
(c) Each Committee shall, without prejudice to and, in accordance with sections 66C and 128B and any regulations made or policy guidelines issued by the Minister for that purpose, draft, adopt and obtain approval for the community elements of the Plan.
Preparation and making of local economic and community plans
66C. (1) A local authority and a Committee shall, in preparing the economic and community elements of a Plan, have regard to—
(a) the need to integrate sustainable development considerations into the Plan,
(b) the resources, wherever originating from, that are available or likely to become available to it for the purpose of the Plan and the need to secure the most beneficial, effective and efficient use of such resources,
(c) the need for co-operation with, and the co-ordination of its activities with those of other local authorities, public authorities and publicly funded bodies, the performance of some of whose functions affect or may affect the local authority and the Committee,
(d) the need for consistency with the policies and objectives of the Government or any Minister of the Government or other public authority in so far as they may affect or relate to the promotion of economic and community development as provided for in sections 66B(2) and 66B(3), and
(e) the need to integrate the economic and community elements, developed in accordance with the provisions of subsections (2) and (3), into the Plan.
(2) (a) Each local authority in developing the economic elements of the Plan shall, in accordance with regulations made by the Minister under section 66H—
(i) consult with members of the public (in this subsection referred to as a ‘public consultation process’) by publishing a public notice (which notice may be given by means of the internet or otherwise) inviting them to make observations or other submissions in writing to the local authority in relation to its proposed development of those elements of the Plan and, in relation to the observations and other submissions so made—
(I) prepare and publish a report on them, and
(II) have regard to them when preparing the economic elements of the Plan,
(ii) consult with those public authorities and publicly funded bodies exercising functions that, in the local authority’s opinion, have a contribution to make or are making to economic development within the functional area of that local authority, and
(iii) consult with any person or body prescribed by regulations made by the Minister under section 66H.
(b) Following consultations in accordance with paragraph (a), the local authority concerned shall submit a draft of the economic elements of the Plan for consideration
(i) in respect of each municipal district concerned, by the municipal district members, and
(ii) by the regional assembly for the region within which the local authority is located pursuant to section 43 of the Local Government Act 1991, and each shall adopt a statement on the draft for consideration by the elected council of that local authority and by the Committee.
(c) The consideration of the economic elements of a draft of the Plan by the regional assembly, the municipal district members, in accordance with paragraph (b), and the Committee, in accordance with section 128B(1)(h), shall relate to its consistency with—
(i) the core strategy and the objectives of the development plan ((being the development plan for the purposes of Chapter I of Part II of the Act of 2000) of the local authority concerned,
(ii) any regional spatial and economic strategy or, as appropriate, regional planning guidelines (being a strategy or guidelines for the purposes of Chapter III of Part II of the Act of 2000), that may apply, and
(iii) the community elements of a draft of the Plan submitted by the Committee in accordance with subsection (3)(b).
(d) The adoption by the municipal district members of a statement under paragraph (b) is a reserved function.
(3) (a) The Committee, in developing the community elements of the Plan shall, in accordance with regulations made by the Minister under section 66H—
(i) consult with members of the public (in this subsection referred to as a ‘public consultation process’) by publishing a public notice (which notice may be given by means of the internet or otherwise) inviting them to make observations or other submissions in writing to the local authority in relation to its proposed development of those elements of the Plan and, in relation to the observations and other submissions so made—
(I) prepare and publish a report on them, and
(II) have regard to them when preparing the community elements of the Plan,
(ii) consult with those public authorities and publicly funded bodies exercising functions that, in the local Committee’s opinion, have a contribution to make or are making to community development to or within, the area of the Committee, and
(iii) consult with any person or body prescribed by regulations made by the Minister under section 66H.
(b) Following consultations in accordance with paragraph (a), the Committee concerned shall submit a draft of the community elements of the Plan for consideration—
(i) in respect of each municipal district concerned, by the municipal district members, and
(ii) by the regional assembly for the region within which the local authority, to which the Committee relates, is located pursuant to section 43 of the Local Government Act 1991, and each shall adopt a statement on the draft for consideration by the elected council of that local authority.
(c) The consideration of the community elements of a draft of the Plan by the regional assembly, the municipal district members, in accordance with paragraph (b), and the local authority concerned, in accordance with subsection (4)(a), shall relate to its consistency with—
(i) the core strategy and the objectives of the development plan (being the development plan for the purposes of Chapter I of Part II of the Act of 2000) of the local authority concerned,
(ii) any regional spatial and economic strategy or, as appropriate, regional planning guidelines (being a strategy or guidelines for the purposes of Chapter III of Part II of the Act of 2000), that may apply, and
(iii) the economic elements of a draft of the Plan prepared in accordance with subsection (2)(b).
(d) The adoption by the municipal district members of a statement under paragraph (b) is a reserved function.
(4) (a) Following the adoption of statements provided for in subsections (2)(b) and (3)(b) and any statement adopted by the Committee, the Plan (including any Plan amended consequent to subparagraph (i), or new Plan made consequent to subparagraph (ii) of section 66F
(b)) shall integrate the economic and community elements and that Plan shall be made by the elected council of the local authority, with or without amendment, and any amendment by it shall relate only to the consistency of the Plan with—
(i) the core strategy and the objectives of the development plan (being the development plan for the purposes of Chapter I of Part II of the Act of 2000) of the local authority concerned that apply to the area of the Plan, and (ii) any regional spatial and economic strategy or, as appropriate, regional planning guidelines (being a strategy or guidelines for the purposes of Chapter III of Part II of the Act of 2000) that apply to the area of the Plan.
(b) The making of the Plan under paragraph (a) by the elected council of the local authority is a reserved function.
Publication of local economic and community plans
66D. As soon as may be after the making of a Plan under section 66C, a copy of it—
(a) shall be made available at the principal offices of the local authority and on its internet website,
(b) shall be furnished to the Minister, and
(c) may be inspected by any member of the public during normal opening hours, and purchased at a price not exceeding the reasonable cost of reproduction.
Implementation of the economic elements of local economic and community plans
66E. (1) Without prejudice to the implementation of the community elements of the Plan in accordance with section 128B, each local authority shall—
(a) implement, or arrange for the implementation of the economic elements of the Plan as made in accordance with section 66C,
(b) co-ordinate, manage and oversee the implementation of the economic elements of the Plan and any projects or programmes prepared to support or advance the implementation of the economic elements of the Plan that have been either—
(i) approved by resolution from time to time for that purpose by the local authority concerned in respect of all or part of its administrative area, or
(ii) agreed for that purpose between the local authority and a public authority, and ensure that any plans and strategies related to those projects or programmes are implemented in accordance with the economic elements of the Plan,
(c) seek to ensure effectiveness, consistency, co-ordination and avoidance of duplication between the economic development programmes to which paragraph (b) applies and the functions of the local authority in relation to promoting the interests of local communities or in other related functions under sections 66 and 66B or otherwise, and
(d) in addition to those projects or programmes to which paragraphs (b) and (c) apply, pursue the co-ordination generally of all economic development programmes within the functional area of the local authority, for the purposes of—
(i) supporting or advancing the implementation of the economic elements of the Plan or optimising resources for the benefit of local communities in that area, and
(ii) improving the efficiency with which public authorities use their resources.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), each local authority shall prepare, review and update, as appropriate, on an annual basis an implementation strategy.
(3) The making and amendment of an implementation strategy is a reserved function.
Monitoring and review of economic elements of local economic and community plans
66F. Without prejudice to the monitoring and review of the community elements of the Plan in accordance with section 128B, each local authority shall—
(a) monitor and review on an ongoing basis the implementation of the economic elements of the Plan, including performance against any benchmarks or indicators of performance set out in it and, if the local authority considers appropriate, to revise the actions, plans and strategies set to achieve its objectives,
(b) undertake a review of the economic elements of the Plan at least once within the period of 6 calendar years after it was made or last amended for the purposes of this paragraph and, if the local authority considers it necessary after any such review—
(i) to amend the economic elements of the Plan, or
(ii) to make new economic elements of the Plan for approval by the local authority in accordance with the provisions of section 66C, and any such amendment or making shall be in accordance with any regulations made, or general policy guidelines issued, by the Minister for that purpose.
Annual Report on monitoring and review of local economic and community plans
66G. Each local authority shall include in its annual report an assessment in relation to the implementation and, where appropriate, review of its Plan in accordance with sections 66E, 66F and 128B during the year immediately preceding the year in which the report is submitted.
Regulations and general policy guidelines
66H. (1) The Minister may, following consultation with such public authorities as he or she considers appropriate, make regulations for the purposes of the relevant sections and sections 128B to 128E either generally or in relation to a regional assembly or a local authority or a Committee or to a particular class or classes of regional assemblies or local authorities or Committees and each regional assembly, local authority and Committee shall, to the extent that those regulations apply to it, comply with those regulations.
(2) The Minister may, in particular but without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), make regulations under that subsection in relation to the Plans including—
(a) the preparation of a Plan,
(b) the co-ordination of the preparation of the economic and community elements of a Plan,
(c) the integration of the economic and community elements into a Plan,
(d) the timing of the preparation of a Plan,
(e) the role of the strategic policy committee established pursuant to section 48(1A),
(f) extending or shortening the period of a Plan for the purposes of synchronising the time period for a Plan with other relevant plans and strategies,
(g) the format and content of a Plan,
(h) the procedures and processes to ensure consistency with the core strategy and objectives of the development plan of a local authority,
(i) the procedures and processes to ensure consistency with the regional spatial and economic strategy and any regional planning guidelines referred to in subsections (2)(c)(ii), (3)(c)(ii) and (4)(a)
(ii) of section 66C for the purposes of Chapter III of Part II of the Act of 2000,
(j) engagement and consultation with the local community in the preparation of a Plan,
(k) public consultation when a Plan is being prepared or reviewed, including the procedures and processes for seeking the timely and effective participation by the public concerned,
(l) developing performance indicators and arrangements for measuring performance of a Plan,
(m) publication of a Plan,
(n) implementation of a Plan, including the preparation, review and updating of the implementation strategies provided for in section 66E(2) and the arrangements for implementation provided for in section 128B(1), and
(o) the review and amendment of a Plan.
(3) For the purposes of the relevant sections and sections 128B to 128E, the Minister may issue general policy guidelines in relation to—
(a) principles guiding the preparation of the Plan,
(b) matters to be taken into consideration when a public consultation process is being undertaken for the purposes of preparing or reviewing the Plan,
(c) matters to be taken into account when a review of the Plan is being undertaken,
(d) avoidance of duplication and optimising the use of available resources,
(e) implementation arrangements for the Plan, and
(f) any other matter of a general policy nature that the Minister considers appropriate for inclusion in the guidelines,and guidelines issued under this subsection may relate generally to all local authorities or to a particular class or classes of local authorities and shall, in so far as the guidelines relate to them, be complied with by every local authority, municipal district members and each Committee".".
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 62, 97 and 123 are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 62:
Section 44: In page 60, between lines 17 and 18 insert the following:
“Consultation with local community
44. The Principal Act is amended by substituting the following for section 127:
“127. (1) A local authority may take such steps as it considers appropriate to consult with and promote effective participation by the local community in local government.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) a local authority may—
(a) undertake such action under section 64 as the authority may consider appropriate,
(b) establish strategic policy committees in accordance with Part 7,
(c) consult with local sectoral, community or other groups,
(d) arrange for the representation on relevant committees of the authority of persons having knowledge or experience of relevance to the work of the particular committee,
(e) consult with a recognised association under section 128,
(f) make arrangements for attendance and raising of issues by interested persons at meetings of the authority or of any of its committees in accordance with such rules as may be determined by resolution of the authority,
(g) arrange for the holding of information meetings and the dissemination of information to the public in relation to any matter connected with its functions.
(3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) each local authority shall, in accordance with regulations made under subsection (6) and general guidelines issued under subsection (7), adopt a document to be known as a Framework for Public Participation in Local Government (in this section referred to as the ‘Framework’) for the purposes of promoting, developing and implementing a coherent and integrated approach to participation in decision-making processes of the local authority by the local community.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), the Framework shall seek to provide for participation by the local community within municipal districts and shall include the following:
(a) participatory mechanisms to promote, support and facilitate the local community’s input into decision making by the local authority, without prejudice to any consultation procedures provided for in any enactment;
(b) clear and transparent mechanisms for the selection of members of the local community to participate in such participatory mechanisms including selection processes that seek to balance gender, geography, social inclusion, sectoral, age and other interests and factors;
(c) mechanisms to monitor, measure and evaluate participation by members of the local community with local government and to provide information to the local community arising from such monitoring, measurement and evaluation;
(d) mechanisms to provide for accountability of such participants to the local community;
(e) mechanisms for the provision of information by the local authority to the local community.
(5) In developing the Framework, a local authority may take such steps as it considers appropriate to consult with the local community, including local sectoral, community or other groups.
(6) (a) The Minister may make regulations relating to the adoption and establishment of a Framework by each local authority and its implementation, review and revision by the local authority concerned.
(b) Regulations under this subsection may be made in respect of local authorities generally or in respect of any particular class or classes of local authorities as determined by those regulations.
(7) (a) The Minister may issue general policy guidelines to local authorities for the purposes of any provision of this section (including any regulations made under subsection (6)) and each local authority shall comply with any such guidelines that relate to it.
(b) Without prejudice to the generality of subparagraph (a), guidelines under this section may provide for any of the following:
(i) assistance to the local community with the preparation of strategies within municipal districts for the well-being of all;
(ii) provision of opportunities for networking, communication and the sharing of information with the local community;
(iii) mechanisms to support inclusion of socially excluded groups;
(iv) developing capacity and supports for public engagement and participation;
(v) participatory mechanisms;
(vi) consultation procedures and processes;
(vii) mechanisms for the provision of information;
(viii) accountability mechanisms.
(8) (a) Where in relation to any function of a local authority under this or under any other enactment the relevant enactment requires the publication of a notice in a newspaper or on the local authority’s website and the invitation of submissions or observations in connection with the performance of that function, the local authority may take such additional steps as it may consider appropriate to publicise, facilitate or promote the consultation process including the use of other forms of communications, including local radio stations, and the use of electronic forms of communication.
(b) A local authority may, in respect of reports, plans or any other material in relation to the performance of its functions, arrange for the making available or display of such materials at suitable locations (which locations may include the internet) additional to those required by this or any other enactment.
(9) An elected council may, by resolution, require that specified action be taken in accordance with this section for the purpose of consultation with the local community.
(10) Nothing in this section shall be read as limiting or departing from the role of a local authority as an elected body.
(11) The procedures and actions provided for under this section to promote and facilitate public engagement under the Framework may supplement but shall not be read as limiting or restricting—
(a) any consultation procedures, or
(b) any procedures requiring consultation, that are otherwise provided for under any enactment and any actions taken under the Framework, or any failure to take any specified action under the Framework, shall not affect any such consultation procedures or procedures.
(12) The adoption of the Framework to promote and facilitate participation by the local community under this section is a reserved function.”.”.

These amendments are reflective of the recent discussion we had about how people at community level would participate in the new local government mechanisms. This amendment replaces section 127 of the 2001 Act with a new section providing for extensive and diverse input by local communities in the decision-making processes at local government level. The new section provides that local authorities should take all appropriate steps to consult with and promote effective participation of local communities in local government. One of the principal provisions to do this will be the adoption by each local authority of a framework for public participation in local government, which will set out the mechanism by which citizens and communities will be encouraged and supported to participate in the decision-making processes of the authority.

Seanad amendment No. 97 deletes an amendment that had been made to the text of section 127 of the principal Act. These changes are being incorporated into the new text of amendment No. 90.

Seanad amendment No. 123 is an associated amendment providing for the new service function - in other words, the adoption of a framework of public participation in local government - to be listed in Part 3 of Schedule 3 as a reserve function of the elected council. I hope that gets over the concerns expressed by Deputies Cowen and Murphy earlier that people feel excluded because they are currently not included in the Schedule. This provision resolves that issue.

The existing arrangements to promote citizen and community engagement with local government have generally not proved satisfactory or effective. I am satisfied the amendments will give scope to local authorities to develop arrangements to enable them to build more effective and inclusive relationships with all sections of society and ensure proper consultation and participation as part of the overall reform to be at the heart of our local government system. At the end of the day, the democratically elected members of the local authority will make the final decisions. These amendments refer to the level of participation and consultation required before such decisions are made.

I am very anxious that people understand that the democratically elected local representatives are the people who will make the final decisions. I am also aware that mechanisms to facilitate greater public engagement, such as digital media, are under consideration in other countries, and we will be looking at these developments. The Fix Your Street initiative, which started out in south Dublin and which is being extended to many local authorities, is a very practical example of where the new digital media can be used and is an approach that is finding favour with many local authorities across a number of areas of activity.

This section deals with consultation with the local community. The section makes clear that consultation is not mandatory because it states that the local authority may decide to consult or hold information meetings. Consultation means different things to different people. If what we are looking at here is the type of consultation initiated by EirGrid in respect of the pylons or Dublin City Council on the incinerator at Poolbeg, consultation is not about telling people what will happen. Consultation should be about allowing people who are to be affected by decisions having an actual genuine impact on those decisions. I see nothing in the section that would satisfy me that there is a requirement for local authorities to engage in real active consultation with local communities. It needs to be beefed up.

I do not agree with the Deputy, because this is a big improvement on the current position. We are putting mechanisms in place to ensure people have information meetings and properly structured consultation on the issues of the day. Ultimately they will be able to meet their local elected representatives and make those concerns known to each individual local authority member in Leitrim or anywhere else. Following this, the councillors who are democratically elected - it is important to emphasise the phrase "democratically elected", meaning elected by all the people in each of the local authority areas - will be better informed and able to come to an informed decision. Obviously, all the views they would have heard from the public can be taken into account by the local elected member before coming to a final decision, and he or she can make that decision accordingly.

Would the Minister be minded to change the word "may" to "shall"?

What is provided for is that a local authority may take such steps as it considers appropriate in how to consult. The word "may" refers to the structures. I want to provide for flexibility in respect of the structures being established by the local authority for consultation, but the overriding issue in the section is that there will be consultation.

I welcome this if it turns out to be what I think it is. That is the reason I want to tease out the issues and perhaps ask the Minister if his Department would consider publishing a set of guidelines that might be recommended to local authorities as an example of how the consultation process can be improved and can be seen to be more fulfilling and involve more engagement than has been the case to date. For example, if there was an issue in a local community whereby a traffic management plan was about to be implemented, I know from my own experience, and I am sure that of many others who meet and consult with local community groups on such issues, that people may seek to hold a public meeting or an information evening. On many occasions, members of the local authority staff do not attend such meetings because they do not feel obliged or compelled to do so. That is the gap that exists in the process where the local councillor is trying to communicate with his community and afford it information pertaining to a project that is in the offing. I am simply asking whether it would be possible for the Department to produce guidelines that might indicate practical means and methods by which the public could adjudicate on the improvements that are being presented as improvements on the consultation process. I do not know if the staff are constrained by the Haddington Road agreement; perhaps the Minister could respond to me on that issue.

When setting up a consultation process there is always a danger that one will have a rent-a-crowd in respect of whatever is the issue of the day. They could come from any part of the country into a local community on the basis of being whipped up to do so. I am trying to provide a structured opportunity, underpinned by statute, to ensure local authorities have discretion to have that information made available to the people, to have the consultation in a properly structured and respectful way and, at the end of the day, not to cut across the statutory responsibilities of the elected members but to ensure that all points of view are put across, not just those of people with vested interests. We are trying to put through legislation whereby the common good is respected and whereby, at the end of the day, councillors are properly informed by their constituents in a structured way, as they ultimately have to take responsibility for the decisions they make, not community groups. The guidelines, which will be robust, will be issued to local authorities in a practical way.

With regard to staff, I acknowledge that a cultural change is required by local authority management in certain areas where they need to go beyond the call of duty in very difficult situations that will arise in any community from time to time. Councils must be able to put their best foot forward in providing the necessary expertise and personnel to give information. I am heartened by some recent cases in which road issues or other major projects that are submitted directly to An Bord Pleanála and that would not normally go through the local authority structure for discussion are the subject of information meetings attended by staff. Again, it depends on the cultural mindset of the manager of the day to determine what is the appropriate level of engagement with the citizen. What I am providing for is based on the fact that the more information and the more structured consultation we can put in place the better.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 63 to 65, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 63:
Section 45: In page 62, to delete lines 11 to 29.

Seanad amendment No. 63 provides for the removal of a provision that was originally included in the Bill for the leaders of political parties above a certain threshold of membership in the local authority to be subject to automatic membership of the corporate policy group. This is in response to debates in this and the other House prior to Christmas in which concerns were expressed that there was a risk, with the text as published, that the corporate policy group could lose its purpose of being the corporate management mechanism in the local authority. Rather than run this risk, I undertook to remove any provision for representation of political parties on the corporate policy group. Concerns were also expressed at the inclusion of non-elected people on the corporate policy group in the person of the chairperson of the LCDC, which I have already addressed in a previous amendment. I recognise these concerns and I am now deleting the provision. My motivation behind it was that I often found, as a member of a local authority, that the leaders of political groups who were not on the corporate policy group were left out of the information loop in respect of the plans and programmes being pursued at local authority level. I understand concerns were raised about the definition of a "group" and how we could include all members of the council in some way to ensure they were properly informed. What we will do instead is to make provision in the guidelines to ensure the corporate policy group, through the cathaoirleach or mayor, is in a position to make regular reports to the local authority instead.

I am also proposing amendments Nos. 64 and 65, which are consequential technical amendments dealing with subparagraph referencing.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 64:
Section 45: In page 62, line 31, to delete "(e) where for" and substitute "(c) where for".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 65:
Section 45: In page 62, lines 32 and 33, to delete "paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) relates" and substitute "paragraph (a) or (b) relates".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment 66:
Section 51: In page 72, to delete lines 17 to 38 and substitute the following:
"(3) Where, as respects a county council, city council or city and county council, including a county council or city council in a group of authorities, a recommendation is made under section 6 of the Act of 1926 of a person for appointment as the chief executive, such council shall—
(a) within 3 months of the date of the recommendation meet and decide to appoint or not appoint as chief executive the person so recommended, and
(b) in the event of deciding not to approve the appointment, furnish to the recommended person the reasons for such decision.
(4) (a) The Minister may make regulations relating to the procedures to be followed by every local authority (including a county council or city council in a group of authorities)—
(i) when considering a recommendation made to it to which subsection (1)(a) relates, and
(ii) for the purposes of subsection (3),
and each such local authority shall comply with those regulations.
(b) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (a), regulations under this subsection may provide for arrangements to be put in place and used in respect of the consideration of a recommendation made under section 6 of the Act of 1926, and for that purpose such arrangements may include—
(i) provisions for the purpose of a local authority seeking information from the recommended person in respect of his or her proposed appointment, the time periods within which—
(I) such information may be so sought, and
(II) further information may be so sought,
and the manner of the provision of such information to the local authority,
(ii) the manner of dealing with information, whether from the recommended person or otherwise, associated with such a recommendation,
(iii) the criteria to apply in respect of the consideration of such a recommendation,
(iv) the records to be maintained by a local authority in relation to the consideration of such a recommendation,
(v) the conducting otherwise than in public of any meeting, or part of a meeting, that considers or otherwise relates to such a recommendation, and
(vi) the keeping in a confidential manner of information obtained, whether from the recommended person or otherwise, and records maintained that relate to such a recommendation.
(c) In making regulations under paragraph (a), the Minister may have regard to and take account of any code of practice issued by the Commission for Public Service Appointments under section 23 of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointment) Act 2004 in existence at the time of the making of the regulations that would relate (in whole or in part) to the selection process that precedes a recommendation to which subsection (1)(a) applies.
(5) Where, as respects a county council, city council or city and county council, including a county council or city council in a group of authorities, such council has decided to not appoint as chief executive the person recommended to which subsection (1)(a) relates, then, for the purposes of section 6 (other than subsection (4)) of the Act of 1926, and notwithstanding the said subsection (4) or any other provision of this Act or any other enactment, a further request shall be deemed to have been submitted in respect of the employment of a chief executive.
(6) Where a position of chief executive becomes vacant the Minister shall appoint a person to be the chief executive temporarily until a permanent appointment to the position is made but such temporary appointment may be terminated by the Minister at any time.
(7) Section 5 of the Act of 1926 does not apply to the position of chief executive.".

This amendment provides for the procedures to be followed by the local authority upon receipt of a recommendation from the public appointments commission for appointment as a new chief executive. An important element of the rebalancing of the relationship between the elected member and the chief executive is the making of the appointment of the chief executive by the elected members a reserved function. This amendment does not alter this fundamental change in the relationship as originally provided in the Bill but it provides for clarity on how the elected members must go about their business of considering and deciding on the recommendation from the public appointments commission. The elected members will have three months to make the decision and a weakness originally in the Bill which would have meant rejection of the recommended person by the mere passage of time if the elected members did not consider the recommendation is removed.

Provision is also made for the Minister to make regulations relating to the processes the local authority will need to adhere to in considering the recommendation of the public appointments service relating to requesting information from the person recommended for the post of chief executive, the keeping of records, confidentiality and the criteria to be applied to their consideration of the recommendation.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment 67:
Section 51: In page 78, to delete line 10 and substitute the following:
“matter.
Executive functions and shared services
149A. (1) In respect of executive functions of a local authority, where 2 or more local authorities agree, or had agreed before the commencement of this section, that, in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness, a specified executive function should be performed by one of them (in this subsection referred to as the ‘nominated local authority’) on behalf of the other local authority or local authorities (as the case may be), then the nominated local authority may perform, and be deemed always to have had the power to perform, the function on behalf of the other local authority or local authorities (as the case may be).
(2) Nothing in this section shall be read as affecting section 34(1)(aa) (inserted by the Waste Management Amendment) Act 2001) of the Waste Management Act 1996.".".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment 68:
Section 53: In page 78, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:
"Local authority associations
53. Section 225 of the Principal Act is amended—
(a) in subsection (3) by substituting the following for paragraphs (c) and (d):
“(c) the provision of policy support and other assistance to its constituent authorities as regards any matter relating to or that may relate to local government,
(d) the assessment of public policy as regards any matter relating to or that may relate to local government, and
(e) the provision of advice and the making of submissions to the Minister or other public authorities as regards such matters.",
and
(b) by inserting the following after subsection (3):
"(3A) (a) Where an association of local authorities or, in the event that there is a single association, such association requests a meeting with the Minister in relation to activities under subsection (3), the Minister shall meet a delegation from the association, or hold a meeting to which paragraph (b) applies, at least once in every year.
(b) Where there is more than one association of local authorities in being at the time of a request or requests for a meeting with the Minister under this subsection is or are received, the Minister may require the meeting for the purposes of paragraph (a) to be a meeting with a joint delegation from those associations.".".

Seanad amendment No. 68 is designed to augment the provisions in the original Bill to augment the role of the associations of local authorities such as the Association of City and County Councils, ACCC, and the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, AMAI, and, hopefully, an amalgamated association after the local elections will give them a greater role in providing a perspective of the elected members in setting policy at national level. I look forward to working with a single amalgamated association of local authorities dealing with policy matters being developed in discussion between the ACCC and the AMAI, and I understand that good progress has been made.

In that respect, I send my best wishes to the outgoing president of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, Councillor Callaghan, from County Kildare, who was very serious. I hope that he will find himself in a position to resume duties at the earliest possible opportunity.

I welcome the constructive discussions that have been taking place between the representative organisations and I wish to see a successful outcome and a new association at the time of the formation of the new structures.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment 69:
Section 54: In page 80, line 34, after "further" to insert "by at least two-thirds of those present and voting".

The provision for suspension of a member is carefully drafted so that the suspension can only follow persistent and continuous disruptive behaviour which the other members find unacceptable. In the Dáil Committee Stage debates, concerns were expressed that there may be potential risks associated with powers to suspend a member notwithstanding the fact that the suspension could only come at the end of an exhaustive process to get the recalcitrant member to behalf. I share the general view that this power should not be capable of being abused for purely political ends. Accordingly, amendment No. 69 will require a two-thirds majority of those present and voting for passage of the resolution leading to the suspension.

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 70 and 71 are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment 70:
Section 55: In page 83, lines 11 and 12, to delete "may make amendments to the draft budgetary plan" and substitute "shall by resolution adopt the draft budgetary plan with or without amendment".

Amendment No. 70 was made to subsection (e) of section 58 during Committee Stage in the Seanad to clarify further the role of the members of a municipal district in considering the draft budgetary plan. This provides that the members of the municipal district shall by resolution adopt the draft budgetary plan, either with or without amendment. However, I recognise that the local authority budget process must be drawn to a conclusion and a budget meeting held within the period set for the holding of such a meeting.

It is important that a failure by the municipal district to adopt a draft budgetary plan can be managed within the timeline for the overall local authority budget process. For that reason, I introduced amendment No. 71 to subsection (e) of section 58 during Committee Stage in the Seanad to provide that the chief executive shall take account of any adopted budgetary plans in preparing the draft local authority budget.

The Bill contains a comprehensive framework for the preparation of the draft local authority budget with further details on timelines and formats to be set out in regulations. In the first instance, the draft local authority budget must be prepared setting out the amounts necessary for the functional programmes of the authority and including an amount to be provided as a general municipal allocation. The consultative process, commencing with the input of the corporate policy group, as set out in the Local Government Act 2001, remains central to the development of the local authority budget. The chief executive must then prepare a draft budget plan for each municipal district. Each draft budgetary plan will set out the general municipal allocation being made available to that district. To ensure that these allocations are made with due regard to the principles of fairness and equity, I introduced an amendment during Committee Stage in the Dáil to provide that in making resources available to the municipal districts for their members' consideration in a draft budgetary plan, the chief executive must have due regard to the resource needs of that municipal district within the broader needs of the local authority and the resources available to it. The process through which the budget is developed is a consultative and collaborative one and will ensure that the service that is provided by the local authority continues to serve the needs of the whole local authority area.

Will the Minister confirm that the consultative process will start with the municipal authority making submissions to the CEO prior to the draft being issued by him or her thereafter? I presume the entire authority only signs off on the budget after the combined municipal authorities have agreed their budgets. Would that be correct?

The municipal districts will have a view and every municipal district will be putting its best foot forward in relation to what it wants. At the end of the day, the county or city will have to make a decision on what it can afford to do. What we are seeking to provide for here is that the manager and the corporate policy group must take account of needs and resources of each municipal district in a fair way. The municipal district members will be present at plenary session to argue their case to ensure, whether it is Edenderry, Tullamore or Birr, that-----

Will the autonomy rest with the overarching authority?

That is correct.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment 71:
Section 55: In page 83, line 15, to delete "the budgetary plan" and substitute "any budgetary plan".
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 72, 73 and 118 are related and will be discussed together.

Seanad amendment 72:
Section 58: In page 92, line 22, to delete "section 126I(8)" and substitute "section 126I(7)".

Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 are technical amendments to correct references in section 126H(1) of the 2001 Act dealing with the number of members of the National Oversight and Audit Commission, NOAC, and section 126H(6) of the 2001 Act which provides that the members will not input into reports in respect of matters in which may have been involved within their roles in a local authority or regional authority. These and other provisions related to the NOAC are being inserted in the 2001 Act by section 58 of the Bill.

Amendment No. 118 rectifies an omission from the listing of reserved functions to be performed by local authorities by including the reserved power to fix the day or days for the first meetings of the municipal district members within the functional area of the local authority. This new, as Members can see, massive, reserved power is provided for in section 52 of the Bill, which amends Schedule 11 of the Local Government Act 2011 dealing with meetings and procedures of local authorities. The new provisions provide that councils at plenary level shall determine the date of the first meeting of the municipal district members and it is important that this reserved power is listed in Part 3 of Schedule 3 for completeness.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment 73:
Section 58: In page 93, lines 10 and 11, to delete "adopt or not adopt a report under section 126D(3) of a report with respect to a local authority or a regional assembly" and substitute the following:
"adopt or not adopt a report under section 126C(1)(i) or section 126D in respect of a local authority or regional assembly".
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendment No. 74 to 85, inclusive, and 102 to 104, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment 74:
Section 60: In page 103, line 19, to delete "Regional spatial and economic strategy" and substitute "A regional spatial and economic strategy".

Amendments Nos. 75 to 85, inclusive, and 103 all relate to section 60 and Schedule 2, and are largely technical in nature correcting textual errors with some substantive drafting amendments, namely amendments Nos. 78 and 83.

Amendment No. 78 inserts a new subparagraph to section 23(2)(b) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as substituted by the Local Government Reform Bill 2013 to provide that the matters to be addressed for the economic component of the regional spatial and economic strategy will include enabling the conditions for creating and sustaining jobs.

The objective of the regional economic strategy is to support the economic policies and objectives of the Government by providing a long-term economic framework for the development of the region, which is ultimately about enabling the condition for creating and sustaining of jobs at local level, providing for an regional economic strategy to enable the conditions for creating and sustaining jobs is consistent with a stronger role for local government in promoting economic development. As outlined earlier, there will be increased local government involvement in economic development because of the economic impact of its functions generally, its links with enterprise, its local knowledge and leadership, its economic initiatives by many local authorities and its new local development and enterprise functions. It is therefore important that the regional spatial and economic strategy enables the conditions for creating and sustaining jobs at local level.

Amendment No. 83 inserts "rural areas" in subparagraph (4)(2) of section 23(2)(b) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to provide that the qualities of rural areas are also considered in identifying the regional attributes that are essential to enhancing regional economic performance, particularly as the regional economic strategy is also about augmenting the economic performance of the region across the economic sectors of agriculture, forestry and other natural resource sectors.

Amendments Nos. 74 and 104 are technical ones to insert an indefinite article where it has been omitted. Amendment No. 75 is a typographical amendment which inserts "of" after "purpose" to read correctly as "purpose of". Amendment No. 76 deletes the word "such" in order to provide for a reference to regulations, as the use of "such" implies the regulations have already been referred to in the section when there is no previous reference to regulations. Furthermore, any such regulations would form the same set of regulations that may be prepared under section 21 of the planning Acts. Amendment No. 77 is another typographical amendment which inserts "of" in place of "for" to refer correctly to "Minister of the Government".

Amendments Nos. 79, 80, 81 and 82 together with amendments Nos. 84 and 85 provide for the renumbering of the subparagraphs and a consequential reference in light of the insertion of the new subparagraph (i) enabling the conditions for creating and sustaining jobs.

Amendment No. 102 is a typographical amendment to delete a superfluous word "in". Amendment No. 103 addresses an omission by inserting "regional" before "spatial and economic strategy" to read correctly as "regional spatial and economic strategy" in Schedule 2 to the Bill.

Seanad amendment No. 80:

Section 60: In page 106, line 14, to delete "(ii) proposals for" and substitute "(iii) proposals for".

Seanad amendment No. 85:

Section 60: In page 106, line 31, to delete "subparagraph (iv)" and substitute "subparagraph (v)".

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 75:
Section 60: In page 104, line 37, after "purpose" to insert "of".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 76:
Section 60: In page 105, line 10, to delete "such".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 77:
Section 60: In page 106, line 6, to delete "Minister for the Government" and substitute "Minister of the Government".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 78:
Section 60: In page 106, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:
"(i) enabling the conditions for creating and sustaining jobs,".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 79:
Section 60: In page 106, line 10, to delete "(i) enhancing overall" and substitute "(ii) enhancing overall".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 81:
Section 60: In page 106, line 19, to delete "(iii) enhancing regional" and substitute "(iv) enhancing regional".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 82:
Section 60: In page 106, line 23, to delete "(iv) identifying the" and substitute "(v) identifying the".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 83:
Section 60: In page 106, line 26, to delete "cities and towns" and substitute "cities, towns and rural areas".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 84:
Section 60: In page 106, line 30, to delete "(v) proposals to maintain" and substitute "(vi) proposals to maintain".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendments Nos. 86 to 92, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No: 86
Section 69: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
"PART 12
NON-PRINCIPAL PRIVATE RESIDENCE CHARGE AND HOUSEHOLD CHARGE
Interpretation ( Part 12 )
69. In this Part—
"Act of 2009" means the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009;
"household charge" has the meaning assigned to it by section 3(1) of the Act of 2011;
"non-principal private residence charge" means the charge provided for in section 3 of the Act of 2009.".

Given the existing Government commitment to the cessation of the non-principal private residence charge in 2014 and the cessation of the household charge in 2013, there is a requirement to repeal and amend the relevant legislation as appropriate.

Amendment No. 86 is a standard provision which defines a small number of terms used in a new Part 12 of the Bill which is in itself provided for in amendments Nos. 87 to 92 inclusive. Amendment No. 87 inserts a new section 70 which provides for the repeal of the Local Government Charges Act 2009 as well as for related compliance measures. The repeals are staggered over time principally to support efforts by the local government system to secure compliance. While I consider the compliance with the charge as being high I am keen to ensure that compliance is maximised, so the repeal of the 2009 Act is staggered over 12 years.

The general approach taken in this section is to provide for repeals in a given date which can then be confirmed or altered by ministerial order. Given the time periods involved of up to 12 years, I believe that the flexibility granted by the making of ministerial orders is necessary.

Moving to the non-principal private residence charge, I am certain that compliance with the charge has been high. To date, almost 359,000 properties have been registered for the charge and more than €394 million has been raised over the last number of years, all of which has been used to fund local authorities in delivering vital services, and this has been a huge achievement. However, I want to maximise compliance and collect outstanding non-principal private residence charge arrears and to help ensure compliance amendment No. 88 provides for a six-month period from March to August 2014 during which new late payment penalties will not be applied to existing liabilities, and this will provide an opportunity for owners to agree terms with the local authorities. As a complementary measure, section 73 will give local authorities explicit latitude to reduce outstanding charge liabilities by writing off parts of such liabilities. At the conclusion of the six-month period, a different situation will prevail. On 1 September 2014 if the non-principal private residence charge remains undischarged or repayment terms have not been agreed, the monthly penalties which would have applied will be reinstated and the entire sum will be multiplied by 1.5 and the entire liability will be frozen for every property. As a complementary measure, amendment No. 90, which inserts a new section 73, gives local authorities powers to reduce outstanding non-principal private residence charge liabilities by writing off part of the liability. The purpose of this section is to provide local authorities with a degree of flexibility when collecting the non-principal private residence charge arrears and under this section local authorities will act as they see fit to collect arrears efficiently. I want local authorities to take a reasonable and equitable approach and I especially want local authorities to deal fairly with those who are unable to pay their arrears. The section explicitly provides for local authority write-downs of late payment fee liabilities when it would be economically most efficient to do so. There is little point in local authorities seeking redress from households which cannot afford to pay their arrears. I will be issuing statutory guidance this year in regard to the application of this section.

Amendment No. 89, which inserts a new section 73, largely replicates the provisions of sections 6(3) to 6(7) of the Local Government Charges 2009 Act, as amended by the Act of 2011. As section 6 of the 2009 is being repealed, effective from 2 March 2014, those provisions of the section which relate to probate or grants of representation must be restated so that they apply from 2 March 2014 onwards.

Amendment No. 91, which inserts a new section 74, provides that the Minister may issue guidance to local authorities concerning any matter to which sections 71 to 73 relate and each local authority shall have regard to any such guidance. It will be necessary to guide local authorities in the application of section 73 and I intend to issue such guidance early this year.

Amendment No. 92, which inserts a new section 75, provides that all activity undertaken by the Local Government Management Agency to collect the non-principal property charge or the household charge or any late payment fees and late payment interest under either of those Acts shall not be impugned on the basis that the agency may have lacked the function to perform that activity. In effect, the amendment retrospectively validates collection-related activity undertaken by the Local Government Management Agency on behalf of the local authority. The section is intended to address a minor technical matter and has been prepared on the basis of legal advice from the Attorney General and as such it is not possible for me to comment any further.

I note what the Minister said and I welcome the arrangements he has made in regard to the methods by which local authorities collect these funds and the discrepancy that they have in relation to adjudication of the arrears and so forth. For how many years is it expected that the non-principal private residence charge will continue to be enforced? I am conscious of that considering the implementation of local property taxes, the fact that water charges will be in play and that some people are being hit continuously. When this was brought in the concept of a property tax was not one which was being discussed widely by the Fine Gael Party at that time. The Minister might inform me specifically at this juncture as to how long more it is envisaged it will be in place and that it will be charged.

The level of compliance with this charge is quite high and people have been responsible in meeting the legal obligations in regard to the second home charge, but we are going to continue the compliance with this legislation for 12 years. However, we are providing an incentive for people for six months in this year whereby they can make arrangements. We have asked local authorities to be as flexible as they can in arrangements.

If people make arrangements, the penalties will stop, the interest will stop and the local authorities will be able to retain the money collected in arrears. I expect local authorities will be incentivised by that. There will be fairly stringent penalties from September onwards, but they will apply for the following 11 years before they cease to exist, and they will be attached to the property in the event of a sale of the property.

So the Minister is now confirming that the charge against non-principal private residences and any multiple that may exist for any property owner is in place and there is legislation to allow it to remain in place for the coming 12 years.

Yes. There will be no new charges on an annual basis. This is based on the fact that at the end of the end of 2013 the charge will cease to exist, but the arrears that have accumulated for people who did not comply with the Act introduced in 2009 will still be enforceable. I have set out the arrangements to be complied with.

We may be contradicting ourselves. So there is no recurring annual charge after 2013?

Just the local property tax.

And it is just the arrears that the Minister will be chasing.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 87:
New Section: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
“Repeals relevant to Part 12
70. (1) The provisions of the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 are repealed as follows:
(a) upon the passing of this Act in respect of sections 3, 4, 5, 9, and 14;
(b) on 2 March 2014 in respect of section 6;
(c) subject to subsection (2), on 1 January 2015 in respect of section 15;
(d) subject to subsection (2), on 31 March 2025 in respect of the whole Act in so far as it is not already repealed.
(2) In respect of any provision to which paragraph (c) or (d) of subsection (1) relates that does not stand repealed by virtue of the paragraph concerned or by order under this subsection, the Minister may by order or subsequent order, as the case may be—
(a) where there is no subsisting order under this subsection in respect of that provision providing for its repeal, provide for the repeal of that provision on a date other than the date provided for by the paragraph concerned, or
(b) where there is a subsisting order under this subsection in respect of the provision concerned, revoke or amend that order and provide for a different date upon which that provision shall stand repealed.
(3) The provisions of the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 are repealed as follows:
(a) upon the passing of this Act in respect of section 10(4);
(b) other than in respect of section 10(4), on such day or days as the Minister may, by order or orders, appoint either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes and different provisions.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 88:
New Section: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
"Arrears of non-principal private residence charge and late payment fees
71. (1) All non-principal private residence charge and late payment fee liabilities relating to any such charge or any part thereof that remain undischarged on 1 March 2014 shall not be subject to additional late payment fees if collected on or before 31 August 2014.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), where a non-principal private residence charge and late payment fee liability in respect of such charge or any part thereof remain undischarged on 1 September 2014, an additional late payment fee of €120 shall apply in respect of each liability date.
(3) All non-principal private residence charge and late payment fee liabilities, in respect thereof, including that provided for by subsection (2), which remain undischarged on 1 September 2014 shall be increased by 50 per cent on that date.
(4) Where in any case the period of 3 months referred to in subsection (6) of section 6 of the Act of 2009 applies but had not expired on or before 1 March 2014, then subsection (1) shall apply to such a case.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 89:
New Section: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
“Deceased sole owner and payment of non-principal private residence charge and late payment fees
72. (1) Where a person who is the sole owner of a residential property (within the meaning of section 2 of the Act of 2009) dies and, at the date of his or her death, a non-principal private residence charge, a late payment fee in respect of such a charge or any part of such charge or fee remains unpaid in relation to that property, then no further late payment fee shall be payable in relation to that property until a grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person issues to the personal representative of such deceased person.
(2) The personal representative of such deceased person shall, as soon as a grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person issues to him or her, be liable to pay to the relevant local authority the full amount due and owing by the deceased, at the date of his or her death, in respect of a non-principal private residence charge and each related late payment fee in respect of such a charge, which said full amount is, in this section, referred to as the “full amount”.
(3) If the said full amount is paid by the said personal representative within 3 months of the date of issue of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person, he or she shall have no further liability in respect of the non-principal private residence charge concerned and each related late payment fee in respect of such a charge due and owing by the deceased at the date of his or her death.
(4) If the said full amount is not paid by the said personal representative within 3 months of the date of issue of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person, he or she shall be liable to pay to the relevant local authority, the said full amount.
(5) If the grant of representation is issued on or after 1 June 2014 and if the said full amount is not paid by the said personal representative within 3 months of the date of issue of the grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person, notwithstanding subsection (1), any late payment fees which would have applied under subsections (2) and (3) of section 71* had the person who is the sole owner of a residential property (within the meaning of section 2 of the Act of 2009) not died shall apply.
(6) (a) In this section a reference to “grant of representation” is, where 2 or more such grants are issued to the estate of a deceased person, a reference to the first of such grants to issue.
(b) In this section a reference to “late payment fee” includes reference to the 50 per cent increase provided for under section 71(3)*.
(7) This section shall apply on and from 2 March 2014.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 90:
New Section: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
“Collection of undischarged liabilities relating to non-principal private residence liabilities
73. Subject to section 74, a local authority may act as it sees fit to most efficiently collect undischarged non-principal private residence charge and late payment fee liabilities in respect of any such charge including, in the case of an individual being liable, reducing such late fee liabilities in circumstances in which the local authority considers that to do so would be most efficient for the collection of the undischarged charge and liabilities.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 91:
New Section: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
“Guidance by Minister
74. For the purposes of sections 71 to 73, the Minister may issue written guidance to local authorities concerning any matter to which those sections relate and each local authority shall have regard to any such guidance.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 92:
New Section: In page 122, after line 37, to insert the following:
“Validity of non-principal private residence charge and household charge collection activity
75. Any activity undertaken by the Local Government Management Agency to collect—
(a) the non-principal private residence charge, under the Act of 2009 or the household charge under the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011, or
(b) any late payment fees and late payment interest under either of those Acts, shall not be impugned on the basis the Agency may have lacked the function to perform that activity.”.
Seanad amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 93, 96, 98, 100, 101, 105, 106 and 108 to 110, inclusive, and 112 to 115, inclusive are related and may be discussed together.

Seanad amendment No. 93:
Schedule 1: In page 125, to delete lines 41 to 43 and substitute the following:

9

Definition of “joint body”

Delete:

“(a) a joint library committee,”.

Delete:

"(d) a joint burial board,".

Amendments Nos. 93 and 100 are related and provide for the deletion of section 230 of the Local Government Act 2001 and a consequential provision arising under the deletion. Under section 230 of the principal Act, the Minister is empowered to dissolve joint burial boards and cemetery joint committees and to transfer those responsibilities, including all land, other property, rights, moneys and liabilities to the county council in whose county the burial grounds are situated. Deputy Barry Cowen is familiar with one of the examples that might fall through the cracks but we will come back to it to see if we can solve it. In accordance with those powers, I recently signed a transfer order in respect of five joint burial boards and a joint cemetery committee, responsibility for which will transfer to the appropriate local authority on 1 June 2014. Following the transfer, the provisions of the 2001 Act will no longer be required, and the amendments provide for their deletion. Their repeal will be commenced following the coming into effect of the transfer.

I am advised that notwithstanding this provision, there will be a capacity for each local authority to continue a joint committee between, for example - in the case I am thinking of - Offaly and Tipperary. Deputy Noel Coonan has been in touch with me about this point. The Dunkerrin burial board is one of the best examples in the country of co-operation between local authorities in an important facility. We will be able to deal with the issue without having it written in statute.

Amendment No. 93 also deletes the reference to the joint library committee within the overall definition of a joint body. This will no longer be required following the enactment of the provision dealing with the dissolution of Tipperary joint library committee, which was provided for during the Dáil debate on Committee Stage. The purpose of amendments Nos. 96 and 98 is to provide that the period in which a budget meeting period may be adjourned is reduced by seven days, from 21 to 14.

Amendment No. 101 is consistent with the amendments to the principal Act and provides that the period in which a budget meeting period may be adjourned is reduced by seven days, from 21 to 14 days, in cases in which an insufficient budget has been adopted. These amendments are intended to ensure sufficient time is available for local authorities to consider and adopt their budgets prior to 31 December. Under the EU regulations known as the two-pack, formally adopted on 30 May 2013, a common budgetary timeline was introduced for all euro area member states. Specifically, the draft budget for central government and the main parameters of the draft budgets for all subsectors of the general government must be published by 15 October each year. Draft budgetary plans in a common format must be submitted by all euro area member states that are not in a programme of assistance by this date. The budget for the central government must be adopted or fixed upon and published by 31 December each year, together with the updated main budget parameters for subsectors of the general government, including the local government subsector. Following these regulations, the local authority budget is required to be adopted by 31 December each year.

Amendment No. 106 is a typographical amendment inserting a definite article where it was omitted. Amendments Nos. 105, 108, 109, 110, 112, 113 and 114 consist of a number of amendments to legislation outside the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government arising from the structural changes provided for in the Bill. The amendments are contained in Part 6 of Schedule 2, which deals with minor consequential amendments to Acts other than those already dealt with in Schedule 1 and in Parts 1 to 5 of Schedule 2 as a result of the reform programme.

Amendment No. 115, relating to the Valuation Act 2001, is being taken at the request of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Currently, the Valuation Act 2001 requires that properties that are a building or part of a building, land, waterway or harbour directly occupied by the State, including those occupied by Departments, the Defence Forces or the Garda Síochána, or are used as a prison or place of detention, although not rateable, must be valued by the Valuation Office, and the value is placed on the valuation lists of local authorities. The amendment means the Valuation Office will no longer be required to value these properties, allowing the resources within the office to be deployed to other aspects of work, including the current programme of revaluation.

On a related topic, the Minister referred to various properties and the valuations attached to them. I refer to the abolition of town councils and the amalgamation of city and county councils. With regard to ownership of properties in the names of town councils that move into the ownership of the overarching local authority, are costs associated with this from a probate perspective? Have the costs been evaluated and collated nationally and has a figure been put on this? Is it the responsibility of each local authority and its legal representatives to carry out those functions? Is there a case for national procurement? Is the local authorities' legal expertise being used in this audit, whether in-house or as an outside function? What costs will be incurred? Based on these costs, is it the duty of the Department to procure this on a national basis? Has that process begun?

In my area, Cahir, offices are being closed. What will happen? How will the transfer take place? Will the properties be sold off? Will community groups get a chance to avail of them? What is the cost in the case of Tipperary's uniting and changing its logo? What is the cost of changing every logo on every item and letterhead? Will consultants be hired to administer this and will it end up as a savage cost to the taxpayer?

It is a seamless transition directly to the overarching authority and, in the case of Tipperary, it will be to Tipperary County Council.

There will be no legal costs associated with this and it is a matter for the local authority as to what it wants to do with properties deemed surplus to requirements. The council will make a decision on what to do, whether it is to allow them be sold or converted to another use etc. It is devolved responsibility to the local authority.

The Minister did not answer the question of the costs. I am relieved to know there will be no legal costs but what about the cost of changing a logo? Some years ago it cost a fortune to change from Cashel urban district council to Cashel town council, and that was only a small area. The entire county will have to be changed.

To which costs is the Deputy referring?

There were two costs, with one being legal costs. The Minister assured us there will be none of those and there will be a seamless transfer. What about changing the logos on everything from machinery to buildings to vans to letterheads?

When there is change there will clearly be some costs associated with rebranding what is being done.

Does the Minister have any idea what they will be?

No, as it is a matter for the local authorities. I hope they will do it as cheaply as possible.

The point is that it will cost a fortune. It cost a fortune to change the name of town councils some years ago so we can multiply that cost by the number of town councils and the two county councils. One does not need to be an expert to know it will be an enormous cost.

The purpose of the legislation is to ensure there are no additional costs and we are already making significant savings with procurement, and I hope Tipperary county council will do the same. We will be doing everything possible to guide the councils along the way in terms of tendering and procurement in order to reduce costs.

It does not stand up.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 94:
Schedule 1: In page 126, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

12

After definition of “local consultative committee”

Insert:“ ‘local economic and community plan’ means a plan to which sections 66A to 66H relate;”.

This is a technical amendment relating to the definition of a local economic and community plan. There are a number of other amendments consequential to this amendment, including amendment Nos. 99, 116, 117, 119 and 122. Following consultation with the public regional assemblies, municipal districts and the local community development committees in respect of the economic elements, it will be a reserve function of the local authority to integrate both the economic and community elements into a single integrated local and economic community plan. Implementation strategies and arrangements must be put in place and led by the local authority and the LCDC respectively for the economic and community elements of the local economic and community plan. Listing these reserve functions is necessary in the appropriate schedule, for which these amendments are proposed.

The local economic and community plan will be reviewed and updated annually and the local authority must report on the success or otherwise of the implementation of the local economic and community plan each year in the annual report. It will be a matter for members to approve the text of the annual report as a reserve function, giving them a further opportunity to ensure that the implementation of these and any other plans is properly driven and led by them. In that context I propose Seanad amendment No. 99.

On Committee Stage we spoke briefly about this in the sense that rather than the existing annual report one would have, there could be measurements of success and failures further to the plan being put in place at the beginning of the year in the first instance. Will the Minister confirm that this will amount to much more than what is currently the case? How will performance be measured and will the Department have a mechanism to review and inspect the performance of a local authority over five years, for example? If there are trends emanating, what reportage will feed back from the Department to the Oireachtas or local authorities?

I can assure the Deputy that the national oversight and audit commission, on which public representatives will also sit and which will operate at a regional assembly level, with public representatives present, will be able to consider best practice with all service delivery in each local authority in the region. The commission will report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and Gaeltacht on what I hope will be a regular basis, and it will be able to drive the efficiencies necessary across best practice in each service delivery area.

In addition, local authority members will have an annual service plan relating to the delivery, or otherwise, in each service area. I hope and expect that local elected members, which will be given the necessary capacity building require to achieve this, will have a developed level of expertise to be able to scrutinise the annual service plans in each service area better than it is done now. On a national basis, the national oversight and audit commission with local government auditors will provide the best vehicle for the efficiencies advocated by the Deputy for service delivery. It is a learning process for every local elected member and local authority and what works well in an area in the delivery of service should be aspired to by every authority. The idea will be driven by the national oversight commission.

I beg the Acting Chairman's indulgence as I must request another clerk's correction to the text of the Bill. In order to correct a drafting error on page 163, line 37, the reference to paragraph (b)(i) should be changed to paragraph (b)(iv). We have done a few of those today.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 95:
Schedule 1: In page 127, to delete lines 13 to 19.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 96:
Schedule 1: In page 134, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

67

Subsection (6)

Substitute “14 days” for “21 days”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 97:
Schedule 1: In page 134, to delete lines 30 to 38.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 98:
Schedule 1: In page 139, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

163

Section 216(1)

Substitute in paragraph (c) “14 days” for “21 days”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 99:
Schedule 1: In page 139, line 29, column 3, after "66," to insert 66G,"
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 100:
Schedule 1: In page 140, to delete lines 25 to 42 and substitute the following:

176

Section 230

Delete.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 101:
Schedule 1: In page 141, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

No. 12 of 1955

City and County Management (Amendment) Act 1955

Section 10A

In subsection (2) substitute “14 days” for “twenty-one days”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 102:
Schedule 2: In page 163, line 19, column 3, to delete “in” where it secondly occurs.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 103:
Schedule 2: In page 164, line 23, column 3, before "spatial" to insert "regional".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 104:
Schedule 2: In page 166, line 34, column 3, after "respects" to insert "a".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 105:
Schedule 2: In page 174, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

No. 25 of 1988

Data Protection Act 1988

Section 1

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 106:
Schedule 2: In page 177, line 16, column 4, after "within" to insert "the".
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 107:
Schedule 2: In page 177, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

No. 11 of 2013

Education and Training Boards Act 2013

Schedule 2

In column (2)—

substitute:

“Limerick City and County and County Clare” for “City of Limerick, County Limerick and County Clare”,

Substitute:

“County Tipperary” for “Tipperary North and Tipperary South”, and

Substitute:

“Waterford City and County” for “City of Waterford, County Waterford”.

Schedule 4

In column (2)—

substitute:

“Limerick City and County Council”

for:

“Limerick City Council

Limerick County Council”,

substitute:

“Tipperary County Council” for

“Tipperary South County Council

Tipperary North County Council”,

and Substitute:

“Waterford City and County Council”

for

“Waterford City Council

Waterford County Council”.

No. 35 of 1995

Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995

Section 10(12)

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

No. 40 of 2006

Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006

Section 23

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 108:
Schedule 2: In page 177, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following:

No. 23 of 1997

Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997

Section 3

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 109:
Schedule 2: In page 178, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

No. 30 of 1976

Gas Act 1976

Section 2

Definition of “local authority”

Section 27

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Substitute for subsection (6):

“(6) In this section ‘road authority’ means a local authority;”.

No. 16 of 1982

Gas Regulation Act 1982

Section 1

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 110:
Schedule 2: In page 179, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:

No. 14 of 1999

National Disability Authority Act 1999

Section 2(1)

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 111:
Schedule 2: In page 180, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

1 & 2 Vict., c. 56

Poor Relief (Ireland) Act 1838

Section 71

Delete “, and on his default then by the person subsequently in the occupation of the rateable property from whom such rate shall be demanded”.

12 & 13 Vict., c. 104

Poor Relief (Ireland) Act 1849

Section 19

Delete.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 112:
Schedule 2: In page 181, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

No. 14 of 1993

Roads Act 1993

Section 2

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’, except in section 73, means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 113:
Schedule 2: In page 182, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

No. 26 of 1925

Shannon Electricity Act 1925

Section 1

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014).”.

No. 4 of 2011

Student Support Act 2011

Section 2

Definition of “local authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘local authority’ means a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001 (as amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014);”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 114:
Schedule 2: In page 182, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

No. 24 of 1997

Universities Act 1997

Section 16(5)(a)

Section 16(5)(b)

Section 16(5)(d)

Section 16(5)(g)

In subparagraph (i) to substitute “by Dublin City Council” for “the Corporation of Dublin county borough”.

Substitute for subparagraph (ii):

“(ii) the person holding the office of Cathaoirleach of a municipal district which contains the administrative area of the former Waterford City Council,”.

Substitute for subparagraph (iv):

“(iv) five persons elected by Cork County Council, Kerry County Council, Limerick City and County Council, Tipperary County Council and Waterford City and County Council,”.

In subparagraph (ii) to substitute “Galway City Council” for “Corporation of the County Borough of Galway”.

Substitute for subparagraphs (i) and (ii):

“(i) the person holding the office of Cathaoirleach of Limerick City and County Council or a person nominated by him or her,

(ii) the person holding the office of Cathaoirleach of a municipal district which contains the administrative area of the former Limerick City Council, and”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 115:
Schedule 2: In page 182, to delete lines 42 to 48 and substitute the following:

No. 13 of 2001

Valuation Act 2001

Section 3

Definition of “rating authority”

Substitute:

“ ‘rating authority’ means—

(a) a county council,

(b) a city council, or

(c) a city and county council;”.

Section 15

Delete subsections (3) and (5).

Schedule 3

Delete paragraph 1(o).

Schedule 4

Insert after paragraph 12:

“12A. Property, being a building or part of a building, land or a waterway or a harbour directly occupied by—

(a) any Department or Office of State,

(b) the Defence Forces, or

(c) the Garda Síochána,

or used as a prison or place of detention, wherever situate.”.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 116:
Schedule 3: In page 184, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

6

Adoption of statements regarding the economic elements of the local economic and community plan for the consideration of the elected council of the local authority.

Section 66C (inserted by section 43 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014).

7

Adoption of statements regarding the community elements of the local economic and community plan for the consideration of the elected council of the local authority.

Section 66C (inserted by section 43 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014).

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 117:
Schedule 3: In page 189, to delete lines 18 to 25.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 118:
Schedule 3: In page 193, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

5

Deciding to fix the day or days for the first meetings of the municipal district members for each of the municipal districts within the functional area of the local authority.

Paragraph 4 Schedule 10 (as amended by section 54 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014).

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 119:
Schedule 3: In page 194, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

9

Making the integrated local economic and community plan.

Section 66C(4) (inserted by section 43 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014).

10

Preparing, reviewing and updating the implementation strategy for the economic elements of the local economic and community plan.

Section 66E (inserted by section 43 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014).

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 120:
Schedule 3: In page 194, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

12

Specifying a local electoral area or local electoral areas within the administrative area of the local authority where owners of vacant premises shall be entitled to claim and receive a refund of differing proportion of such rate to that that would otherwise apply to the rest of the administrative area and deciding what proportion of refund shall apply in respect of each of those specified electoral districts.

Section 14 (as amended by section 31 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014) of the Local Government Act 1941, section 20 (as so amended) of the Cork City Management Act 1941 and section 71 (as so amended) of the Local Government Dublin Act 1930.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 121:
Schedule 3: In page 197, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

37

Applying to the Minister to make an order under subsection (8) of section 29 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 that the adjustment period, referred to in that section and applicable to a specified area within the administrative area of the local authority, may be extended by a period not greater than 10 years and stating the length of extension being sought.

Section 29(8) of the Local Government Reform Act 2014.

Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 122:
Schedule 3: In page 206, to delete lines 26 and 27.
Seanad amendment agreed to.
Seanad amendment No. 123:
Schedule 3: In page 206, betweens lines 44 and 45, to insert the following:

109

The adoption of a Framework for Public Participation in Local Government.

Section 127 (inserted by section 44 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014).

Seanad amendment agreed to.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions to the debate. At the beginning of Second Stage, I indicated that I was prepared to listen carefully to the discussions in this House and that where Members had practical experience of what we were trying to do I would take many of their views into account. We have taken many of the issues into account. I thank Deputies Cowen, Stanley and Murphy, who have taken a particular interest in these matters during the debates and responded very constructively in respect of what we are trying to achieve. I thank them for their co-operation.

I thank my officials, led by Mr. Denis Conlan and Mr. Michael Murphy, and all the officials in the local government division for ensuring that much of the painstaking work that has taken place for a number of years would culminate in this Bill. We do not always agree on the detail in this House but I hope the spirit of constructiveness has resulted in a much better Bill than the one that was initiated.

I join the Minister in paying tribute to and thanking the staff of the Department for their work in putting this Bill before the House and their work thereon as it passed through the Houses. I thank them for acquiescing to the wishes of Members and the Minister. I thank the Minister for the manner in which he conducted affairs during the passage of the Bill through the Houses. Many amendments have been made, not only in response to our requests but also to those of the various representative bodies outside the House. I compliment the Minister on his forbearance in regard to these issues.

As I said on Second Stage, we do not necessarily agree with the thrust of the Bill. While it is well intended, we would have proceeded very differently. We are fearful of the impact of the legislation on local democracy. That is a matter for another day, and it was for another day. We have put on record our opposition to the legislation in that context. That said, we recognise the mandate of the Government and its ability to pass legislation. With that in mind, we have sought to be as constructive, fair and reasonable as possible in seeking to put forward the views of those we represent. We sought to make the legislation as friendly as possible to the representatives who will be expected to implement it and work within its confines.

I wish the legislation well and hope, contrary to many opinions, that it is constructive, not only for those who will work with it but also for the staff in local authorities, who face a big challenge with the amalgamations. Ultimately, I hope the legislation will be of benefit to the people we represent - namely, the people who wish to avail of the services of local authorities. I look forward to a review of the legislation by a committee and Parliament over the coming years. I am particularly conscious of the oversight role of the Department in reviewing the performance of the legislation against its intention. I commend everybody associated with the Bill and hope it is successful. While I do not necessarily agree with its content, I will be the first to admit it if I am proven wrong and it is a success for the Government.

I am representing Deputy Stanley, who had to attend a committee meeting. He asked me to represent him here. I know of his interest in this legislation.

I, too, was impressed by the number of amendments to the initial legislation that were accepted and I have no doubt that they will improve the quality of the Bill. We continue to have very serious misgivings not only about the thrust of the Bill but also the thinking behind it. Effectively, it means we are moving local elected representatives further from the people they represent. The same is happening with the bigger national and European electoral areas. It is all a process of moving people further from those who represent them. We will be vigilant in analysing the progress of this Bill but we recognise the great deal of hard work that has gone into it.

I was not involved on Committee Stage; I am not a member of the committee. I am not denying the hard work of the Department and Minister, as referred to by colleagues. However, I fundamentally disagree with the Bill because, as Deputy Colreavy stated, it is creating a bigger divide between the people and public representatives. In our case, south and north Tipperary are being bulldozed together. As I stated, the costs will be huge. The Minister cannot answer my question on this. We will see the result in time to come.

The legislation is putting people last and getting rid of elected town councils. In Tipperary, they have served for centuries. Councillors have been voluntary in the main and would work voluntarily again if they were left to it. The legislation errs in that it is not putting people first; it is putting people last. I believe it will be challenged in another forum. Perhaps that is why the date for the local elections has not yet been fixed. While reference is made to 23 May, we will see whether that stands. I wonder why all the authorities were allowed to pass their estimates for a full year if they are to be terminated well before the first half of the year. I cannot wish the legislation well because I believe it is founded on a false premise and neglects the views of local authorities. I do not know why the local authorities' representative organisations did not stand against the Bill. Sin scéal eile. The legislation is putting people last and the Government will find that out when it goes back to meet the people in 2016 or another time.

Seanad amendments reported.