That it be an instruction to the Select Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, in relation to the Local Government Bill 2018, that:
(a) pursuant to Standing Order 154, the Committee has power to make amendments to the Bill which are outside the scope of the existing provisions of the Bill, in relation to the holding of plebiscites on directly elected mayors and the establishment of urban area committees; and
(b) Standing Order 154 is modified as outlined in Standing Order 200 to provide that the Committee has power to make amendments to the Bill which are outside the existing subject matter of the Bill, in relation to section 32 of the Official Languages Act 2003 and to repeal section 49 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, to facilitate the commencement of section 48 (amending the Local Government Act 2001) of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 and to amend sections 2 and 13 of the Building Control Act 2007;
and to make other consequential amendments required to take account of the changes above.
In my Second Stage speech on 18 October 2018, I mentioned that some further provisions, including in respect of the holding of plebiscites to consider the proposal for directly elected mayors for Cork city, Limerick, Galway city and county and Waterford and joint structures to facilitate local area and forward planning for urban areas that span county boundaries, would be brought forward on Committee Stage. Two of the amendments I propose to the Local Government Bill 2018 relate to the insertion of a new Part of the Bill dealing with plebiscites on directly elected mayors and consisting of seven sections, and a new Part dealing with urban areas and consisting of four sections.
In late September, the Government agreed in principle to the holding of plebiscites on directly elected mayors with executive powers for the cities and counties to which I referred at the same time as the local government elections in May 2019. This was subject to the inclusion of the necessary legislative provisions within this Bill and the future submission of more detailed proposals on the plebiscites and the questions to be put to the electorate, as well as the specific powers to be given to mayors.
The provisions I propose to add as a new Part of the Bill provide for the holding of plebiscites in Cork city, Galway, Limerick and Waterford on a proposal to provide by law for a directly elected mayor of those administrative areas. The date for holding the plebiscites is to be set by the Minister but the intention is that this would be in May 2019, the date of the local elections. The plebiscites are to be conducted in accordance with regulations that will contain the usual provisions relating to ballot papers, returning officers, the taking of the poll, voting and counting of votes, etc., and will need to be approved by resolution of the Oireachtas. The persons entitled to vote in the plebiscites will be those entitled to vote at local elections to Cork City Council, including those being transferred next year from the county to the city; Galway City Council and Galway County Council, in anticipation of a merger of these two local authorities in 2021; Limerick City and County Council; and Waterford City and County Council. Information for voters, which is to be published and distributed by the relevant local authority at least 30 days before voting day, is to include a summary of the functions and office of directly elected mayors for local authorities concerned, the impact on the relevant local authorities, other statutory bodies, the estimated cost and resource implications, the possible advantages and disadvantages associated with the proposal, and any other information the Minister considers appropriate in guidelines to be issued to the authorities. Within two years of the holding of plebiscites, the Minister must submit a report to the Oireachtas specifying either legislative proposals to establish the office of directly elected mayor for any of the local authority areas concerned or his or her reasons for not submitting such proposals.
Section 30 of the Local Government Bill removes the ministerial power to change local authority boundaries by order in circumstances where the local authorities concerned are not in agreement about the alteration. As a result, where there is no agreement, future boundary alterations will be capable of being effected only by primary legislation, such as under this Bill in the case of Cork.
In the context of continuing urban overspill across county boundaries, I propose to establish a mechanism for local authorities to work together to ensure the proper planning and development of certain cross-boundary urban areas. The relevant provisions in a further new Part of the Bill require the establishment of urban area committees within six months of commencement of the legislation where at least 1,500 persons or 15% of the population of an urban centre are living in the administrative area of another local authority. This will apply to towns and cities with a population of between 1,500 and 100,000. Those towns to which this is applicable are Athlone, Bray, Carlow, Carrick-on-Shannon, Drogheda, Limerick, Portarlington and Waterford. The urban area committee is to perform local area planning functions for the town or city and its contiguous areas as determined by the committee or, failing that, as ordered by the Minister. Membership of the committee is to be equally drawn from both local authorities and is to consist of six councillors from the relevant local electoral areas, with three appointed by each local authority, plus the cathaoirleach of each of the local authorities. It is also to include a minimum of two and a maximum of four non-voting members with relevant expertise in the areas of transport provision, infrastructure development, housing provision or business and trade. Administrative support to the committee is to be provided by members of staff selected by the committee from nominations made by the two local authorities. The main function of the committee will be the production of the local area plan for the cross-boundary urban area, including the appropriate zoning as an explicit function. In the case of these areas, the development plan content for both local authorities will have to follow on from, and be consistent with, the local area plan that is made for the cross-boundary city or town and it will not be possible for either local authority to amend or revoke the local area plan approved by the committee.
I also mentioned on 18 October that amendments relating to the placenames provisions of the local government code might also be brought forward if the urgency of progressing this Bill permitted. I am proposing an amendment that repeals section 49 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 and restates the content of the repealed section in Irish and English. Section 49 amended section 32(2) of the Official Languages Act 2003 for consistency with changes to Part 18 of the Local Government Act 2001 that were made under the previous section 48 of the 2011 Act. It was, however, enacted in English only, whereas amendments to Acts enacted and enrolled in Irish are required to be bilingual. It is proposed, therefore, to take the opportunity with this Bill to redo the 2011 provision in both languages, with a view to then commencing Part 18 of the Local Government Act 2001, as amended. This will facilitate the planned holding of a plebiscite by Sligo County Council on a proposal to change the placename of Inishcrone, or for some people, Enniscrone.
I also bring to the attention of the House a further proposed amendment to the Bill, which is for the purpose of correcting errors in the title of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in sections 2 and 13 of the Building Control Act 2007 that omitted the word "the".