Local Government Bill 2018: Committee Stage (Resumed)

NEW SECTIONS
Debate resumed on amendment No. 111:
In page 26, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:
“PART 6
URBAN AREAS
Interpretation
39. (1) In this Part—
“greater urban area” means—
(a) an urban area, and
(b) any part of the administrative area of a local authority designated under section 41 by the urban area committee appointed for that urban area;
“urban area” shall be construed in accordance with subsection (2).
(2) (a) For the purposes of this Part, an area that lies within the administrative areas of more than one local authority is an urban area if—
(i) the population thereof, as recorded in the most recent census of population, is not less than 1,500 persons and not greater than 100,000 persons,
(ii) each dwelling situated therein is within 100 metres of another dwelling so situated, and
(iii) the population, as so recorded, of each part of the area consists of not less than—
(I) 15 per cent of the population of the area, or
(II) 1,500 persons,
whichever is lower.
(b) In this subsection “part” means, in relation to an area that is situated in more than one administrative area, that part of each such administrative area that is situated in the area first-mentioned in this definition.”.
-(Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government).

In order to ensure the smooth running of proceedings, any Member who is acting in substitution for a member of the select committee should formally notify the clerk if they have not already done so. Members should be aware that today proceedings are due to conclude by 1.40 p.m. as we have to vacate the room. If we have not concluded our consideration of the Bill by then, we will suspend the sitting until 5 p.m.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government with special responsibility for local government and electoral reform, Deputy Phelan, and his officials. Deputy Ó Cuív was in possession when the debate was adjourned last night.

I understand we are discussing amendment No. 40. Is that correct?

No. We are discussing amendments Nos. 111 to 114, inclusive, together.

I was beginning to talk about the new construct and the bigger part of County Roscommon being in County Westmeath. Counties Waterford and Kilkenny were also mentioned in that context. There is another very serious development which, if it were to take hold, would have huge ramifications for democracy. In recent years I have noted a move towards corporatism, a European idea of the 1930s that, thankfully, we eschewed in favour of democracy. The idea is that representative groups form the ruling structures, rather than allowing a system of one person, one vote at a certain age, regardless of whether people are well educated. This measure seems to be putting a toe in the water in respect of a wider thought process and I suspect that is all it is. The new committee will have a mixture of elected individuals and nominees who will be nominated by the cathaoirligh. However, we have no idea of what the constraints will be. It is one of those selective processes where certain qualifications put a person in the "in" group in society and get them onto committees such as this. It contrasts with being selected by one's peers, by which I mean the electorate.

The proposal refers to people with experience in the provision of transport and housing, the development of infrastructure or business and trade. I note that they will not have a vote, although that could change later. However, they will have enormous influence, which is why they are being put there. They would not be there if they were not going to have enormous influence. I see the process being widened progressively to the general local authority scene because that is how the system works. It is a big idea, but it will hit a wall if it moves forward too quickly; therefore, it will creep forward. Nevertheless, the people involved will be given the most significant of powers, namely, the power to be involved in planning.

The new group is not representative. There will be no one on it from RAPID programme areas. The people chosen who will be upper middle class and living in salubrious surroundings will have power over those living in less salubrious surroundings in towns, many of which are included in RAPID programme areas. People living in housing estates bring a lot of expertise, as well as knowledge of what it is like to be at the bottom of the pile and have planning ideas imposed on them without much choice. Urban areas by far have the biggest social problems and levels of deprivation. Poor urban areas have the biggest drug problems because of social segregation, but the people who will be nominated will come from a certain class and not have suffered the effects of the problems mentioned. I suggest the Minister of State looks at this matter again. If we want good planning, we need to ensure these urban communities will be represented. They have tended to be represented in the normal democratic way by virtue of being numerous, but the Minister is including super influencers to take away that power.

The other sector that is totally being ignored is the community and voluntary sector which is of enormous importance in terms of the well-being of Irish society. If we were to take that sector out of the communities in which we all live, they would be destroyed because a lot of what is good, positive and wholesome and gives huge satisfaction to people does not come under the heading of "It is the economy, stupid ". That is such a trite statement because it is not all about the economy but about quality of life.

While the amendments do not directly relate to Galway, they are a precursor of the new approach to local authorities. They are putting the toe in the water for the first time in respect of a new approach that indicates to us that we cannot trust the people elected by the people and that we need to get the elite in control. It is to state, "If we get away with this, we will keep going". It derives from European thinking of the 1930s and we all know what happened in those years. Thankfully, this was an ordinary plain democracy that was run by the people for the people and we avoided many of the conflicts to which the other approach led.

Most of the questions on the amendments were asked last night, but Deputy O'Dowd had some further questions he wanted to ask. As he is running three minutes late, I ask the Minister of State to start answering the questions that were raised.

I will try to answer the questions raised, many of which were asked by several members.

Deputy Casey and others expressed regret that the amendments had been tabled late in the day. I am not criticising the committee, but they all flow from a report adopted by the Government six months ago which was sent to the committee.

I have always said there should be two committees in this area. In the case of the four areas where boundary reviews were conducted, there was an acceptance - even taking me out of the picture, which is difficult to do - that by their nature issues in towns and cities that crossed boundaries were intractable. It goes to the heart of the Irish identity, the connection with place, parish, community and county. It was felt, even before I arrived in this position, that we had to look at some new structure that would allow county boundaries to remain as they were but that would also allow for the proper planning and development of cities that spilled into two local authority areas. I do not know if there are cities that spill into three local authority areas. The amendments deal solely with towns with a population between 1,500 and 100,000. I agree with Deputy Ó Broin that things that work well in one area may not work well in another, which is a fair point. The premise is to have a full development plan for these towns. At present both local authorities do their own thing. A good example was mentioned by Deputy Ó Broin last night. He said there had been good co-operation since the 1950s between the authorities in Carlow town and County Laois. With many shared services, at the end of the year a cheque is exchanged. The local authority in Carlow is delivering services for thousands of people who live in County Laois. It was mentioned in one of the boundary review reports, in respect of which, interestingly, there were only seven submissions received from the general public. Deputy Eugene Murphy would know about the 20,000 plus submissions received in County Roscommon, while approximately the same number of submissions were received in my own neck of the woods. However, only seven people living in counties Laois and Carlow made submissions because the co-operation had worked, but it is non-statutory. They also compile their own local area plans independently. What we are looking at is providing for functions that are either not performed fully or not performed at all under the existing local government structure. One of the key functions is being provided for to deal with the inability of the system to compile a full plan for a town or a city.

Every speaker raised this issue. Deputy O'Dowd gave a real example in outlining why this measure or its equivalent was needed. I emphasise that I am fully open - it will be at least two weeks before we take Report Stage - to sitting down with spokespersons and whoever else wants to attend from the different groups and the Independents to discuss the issue. To accommmodate them, I will table my own ministerial amendments. There is nothing underhand being done. In every speech I have made to local authority members, the management association and in the Chamber, both on this Bill and Private Members' Bills on town councils, of which there have been a few, I have spelled out that there will be a joint structure to deal with forward planning in towns and cities. That is what the Bill aims to achieve. My private secretary will email all members of the joint committee - other colleagues can be brought along if they so wish - and on Tuesday of next week they can sit down with me and the officials to identify the wording or hierarchy to be used. I believe that is what Deputy Ó Broin was referring to yesterday.

I am acutely aware that I was attacked from all sides on Deputy Cullinane's local radio station. It was said this was my revenge on Waterford, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I hope the Minister of State does not mean that.

The Deputy was not involved, but lots of my own were. It is a well flagged and genuine attempt to do something new to deal with the intractable boundaries problem.

Let me give the final explanation as to how we arrived at this measure. Essentially, what we are asking is that the smaller local authority give up its power to produce a local area plan. In the case of Drogheda which was mentioned by Deputy O'Dowd, it will mean that Meath County Council will select three members, with Louth County Council. They will adopt the local area plan for the urban area, most of which is within the boundaries of County Louth. On the county development plan, they will not do what they did in Drogheda and resile from the joint agreement. We can avoid the scenarios that were discussed. It was Deputy Ó Broin or someone else who raised the question of what had emerged in Cork during the years, where the county council was zoning land for housing development on the boundary between the city and the county which resulted in the creation of new settlements. I am open to changing the amendments in whatever way we can to accommodate the concerns of members of the committee. We will have multiple meetings in the two weeks in the lead-up to Report Stage.

I will deal with a number of other specific issues. To respond to Deputy Ó Cuív comments, I am not particularly wedded to the idea of having outside people. I emphasise for the Deputy and everybody else present that the role of the groups is to perform functions that are not performed adequately or not at all by councils. There was no question of having council planners or planning staff included as the experts. We were looking at the forward planning aspect. I will have no difficulty in accepting amendments on Report Stage. I completely accept the Deputy's idea on RAPID programme areas and about the community and voluntary sector in general.

I believe I have answered most of the questions that were asked.

As the Minister of State did not deal with most of my questions, please allow me to go through them again. I fully accept that the intention behind the Bill to solve what is a particularly difficult problem, about which there is no dispute. I also accept that the Minister of State flagged the general principle. Nonetheless, I believe he is underestimating the concerns of committee members in the sense that we are only being given two days to consider the detail of his proposals. There is a big difference between being given a general indication of the policy direction and flagging it and having adequate time to scrutinise the detail of proposals. It is not that we want lots of time to scrutinise them. The committee is incredibly flexible with all of the Minister of State's other ministerial colleagues in providing time, but because of the length of time we are being given to scrutinise the proposals, it is genuinely very tough for us. I am still not clear on why it is that we are being given so little time. For example, when we look at earlier amendments on the holding of plebiscites, there is a very clear rationale as to why the Minister of States needs to include them in the Bill because there is a deadline to meet in compiling the registers, etc. Therefore, I would like to be convinced that this amendment has to be included now, rather than in a stand-alone Bill or in the Local Government Bill 2019.

On the ratio of elected representatives to voters, I have still not heard an adequate explanation. I am not making the argument that there should be exact proportionality. If there was, those in the smaller adjoining local authority would fear that they would be swamped by those in the larger area. I accept that it works both ways. What I do not understand is the reason there should be a simple rigid formula of three and three elected members, with the chairpersons or mayors, as opposed to other options because there will be variations in size. I do not know the demographics of each of the areas listed by the Minister of State, but it seems that there should be some way of thinking it through to avoid the problem he identified to me informally after the meeting, that if you give one too much weight, it will mean that nothing will be agreed. However, I am yet be convinced on that point.

The next issue concerns the process of appointment of elected members. For example, if mine was the majority party in the two councils, is it the case that we could elect the six members? Where would that leave the smaller parties in terms of diversity in representation? Likewise, we must consider the geographical locations of the elected representatives.

I have not heard the Minister of State address how we deal with that or the question about staff. If I am reading the Bill right, the committee will decide what staff it requires from the existing local authorities. Does that have to be approved by the chief executives of those local authorities? Can the chief executives object? What happens if the staff that the committee requests are already busy doing something else? We know there are pressures across all council departments. How will those functions be replaced within existing staff complements?

Whatever this committee decides will have a financial implication which will have to be borne by the two local authorities. How will that work? What happens if there are significant disagreements over budgets, zoning or other things? I am not saying that we should go back to the Drogheda example where local authorities are allowed to block everything. The option the Minister of State has put on the table is not the only one and is not necessarily the clear option.

A number of Deputies asked a reasonable question yesterday about the statutory consultative process with county development plans and local area plans. The local authorities know which steps they have to go through. It is not clear from this what that consultative process is. It is certainly not clear to elected members of the councils or the public, from engagement with them. I will go back to what I said at the start. None of us is trying to be difficult or block the Minister of State from having a solution but in the absence of adequate time to go through all these things and be convinced that what he is proposing is the right way to fix this, many of us will be left in a position of not being able to support it today. I understand his offer to sit down next week and come back with amendments the following week. That is still a very tight timeframe for something that is relatively complex. I appreciate the Minister of State and his officials have been working on it for some time but those of us who are only taking it up now have many other significant things on our schedule in these couple of weeks. Would it not make more sense for the Minister of State to withdraw the amendment at this stage? We will take the offer of engaging with him both immediately before and after Christmas and insert this into the local government Bill 2019. Would that not make more sense rather than trying to shoehorn it into the 2018 Bill within a short timeframe?

The majority of people here are not against this concept. We are all in favour of it. We have worked positively on all legislation that has come through here. This legislation came to us on Tuesday night and this is the first time that we have seen the detail that we are being asked to agree. The Government introduced 71 amendments on Report Stage of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act last year. We have to be given time. This is a positive move but it needs to be looked at critically. We have not had the opportunity to do that.

Where does the urban area plan sit in the planning hierarchy? It is not the national development plan, a regional plan, county plan, environs plan or local area plan. Is it part of the county development plan or does it sit outside it, standing in its own right like some of the environs plans around the country that go through the same process as the county development plan? Does the consultation have to follow the same procedures as those plans? I cannot see that with the way I am reading this. The other area I was concerned about was the land-grabbing. Sorry, I will not call it grabbing. There is no reference to public consultation about the initial boundary, which is in amendment No. 112.

Going back to what I raised last night, the more I think about this, the stronger I become on it. The Minister of State said we do not have the expertise and that is why we are considering bringing it in from outside. How do we not have the expertise for our local area, county and regional plans? The expertise at local authority level is there for all those plans and is there for these plans. This should remain in the control of public representatives and we need to return trust on this to public representatives. The Minister of State is saying one thing here yet we are adopting many other higher, greater plans without that cohort of people. I do not see the logic behind it.

Deputy O'Brien found out last night that Bray is one of the areas in this. I am not sure that the local authority in Bray is even aware that this is coming down the track. Since the establishment of the municipal district, it has spent the whole time creating a municipal district plan to encompass the whole municipal district around Bray. Now we are told that there will be another plan which will incorporate part of Dún Laoghaire. Bray will have 75% of the population and landmass with Dún Laoghaire having 25%. We then get into the area of proportionality. Can the smaller side control it? I want to support this legislation. I think it is a solution for the future but we are rushing it and mistakes will be made if we try to ram this through in the next two weeks.

I know Deputy Cullinane indicated earlier but I always take members and then non-members. I call Deputy O'Brien.

Will the Minister of State respond to those questions? Some of my questions were the same as those my colleagues have asked. I might speak then if that is okay with the Minister of State.

I do not want to upset the committee's procedures but I have to get back to the Committee of Public Accounts. If it was possible for me to put the questions-----

Deputy Cullinane is next if Deputy O'Brien does not want to speak.

I will give way.

I thank Deputy O'Brien and the Chair for her indulgence.

We will all look at this through the lens of what is closest to us. I do not intend to get caught up in the hyperbole of this issue with regard to the commentary that will flow from this locally. It is obviously an issue that will be contentious in Waterford and Kilkenny. This boundary issue has been contentious for some time. I have not been one of the politicians that has increased the temperature on the issue and I accept that we need to have a structure, process and framework in place that focuses on the needs of the people who live there and not on all the other issues that seem to gravitate around this issue, which are sometimes somewhat unhelpful. I have no difficulty in principle with a solution being found. The difficulty is that the solution which has been brought to the table is very late in the day in a Bill which was designed to do something else. Notwithstanding that the Minister of State flagged up that he intended to look at a solution and mechanism such as this, the detail of it is now before us and concerns us. I have spoken to councillors and the management in Waterford and they are concerned about the process. They have no problem with good planning and sustainable development but they have concerns about the democratic element in this.

I want the Minister of State to help me to understand how this would work in practice. We have the example of Waterford and Kilkenny. I understand that this urban district committee would involve the metropolitan area of Waterford city and the part of south Kilkenny that was subject to a potential boundary extension. Approximately 45,000 live in the metropolitan part of Waterford city and approximately 7,000 live in that part of south Kilkenny, coming to approximately 52,000. The vast majority live in Waterford, yet there are three elected representatives from Kilkenny and three from Waterford. The Minister of State can obviously see how difficult that will be from a democratic point of view for people who live in Waterford. They will be very concerned about that. That just relates to the composition of it, not the people who will come from outside, as Teachta Casey mentioned. The powers and functions that the committee will have will concern members even more. What relationship will it have with the two councils and, specifically for me, what relationship will it have with Waterford City and County Council? My understanding of the amendments is that they will have powers to formulate their own local area plan but will that local area plan be able to supersede area plans which have already been crafted by local authorities? If that is the case, that creates other democratic problems in the sense that there are 32 councillors in Waterford who could formulate a plan which could then be superseded by a smaller number who are not elected to that body. We do not know how they are appointed.

That is going to be problematic. The same thing applies in the case of development plans. Will these other councillors be able to vary development plans? If so, how will that work in practice?

I will give a simple example of the types of practical things that need to be worked out. If the committee of six councillors decides that under the local area plan, a road should be built somewhere entirely within its geographical area, which will include the entire area of Waterford city and the smaller area, there will be budgetary implications. Given that the budget is decided by the councils, how will this work? People are struggling to understand how it will work practically. The Minister of State is correct when he says that this proposal has not gone down well in Waterford for all of these reasons. People are not opposed to a solution, but they do not like this solution. Like Deputy Ó Broin, I think it would be better if the Minister of State were to withdraw these amendments. I know from speaking to management personnel in Waterford City Council that they have not been consulted. They are aware that some sort of proposition is being put on the table, but they have not been consulted on the detail. How can we force something on local authorities when local authority management is saying it does not see how it will work? Neither management nor councillors has been consulted. The Minister of State has said that members of his own party in my constituency are concerned about this as well. Strong language may have been used if emotions were running high. They are concerned and they should be consulted.

I suggest it would be best to withdraw these amendments at this point. My strong advice to the Minister of State is to withdraw them and revisit them either in the 2019 Bill that has been mentioned by Deputy Ó Broin or in a separate stand-alone Bill. We need to examine this dispassionately and appropriately without jumping to conclusions. It should be given the proper consideration. We need to look at how it would work practically. I am certainly up for that. I want something that will work. I do not believe the process that is envisaged here will work for Waterford and Kilkenny, whatever about the other areas. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work here. I have set out my concerns. As I have to return to the Committee of Public Accounts, I might not be here when the Minister of State responds. I am sure Deputy Ó Broin will update me on what he says. I thank the Chair for her indulgence.

I want to get clarification on something. Unfortunately, I will have to leave the meeting. Obviously, this Bill will take in the Monksland area, which has been controversial, as the Minister of State knows. I have tabled questions to him on it. I presume we will have an opportunity to discuss the matter at a later stage.

I will try to be as quick as I can. Many fairly specific questions have been asked. I took all the notes last night. It was only when Deputy Ó Broin was going through his issues that I used a highlighter to highlight them. On the time issue, it is intended, as it has been all along, that these structures will come into place when the new councils are elected. With the best will in the world, next year's local government Bill, which will deal primarily with Galway, will not come into effect until well after the local elections. I want to say in response to the queries of all Deputies that I am asking them not to vote down these amendments on the basis of my commitment that I will withdraw the whole lot of them if we cannot come up with something constructive in the two weeks before Report Stage. I agree that this is substantive. I have been buried in this issue for all of my life. I suppose I have a unique kind of appreciation of it. I do not want to be seen to do anything that disadvantages anyone. I hope we can figure out some amendments within the two-week period I have mentioned. I am willing to introduce those amendments. If they are not agreeable, I will withdraw this section.

I have not heard anyone disagreeing with the idea I am advancing. The principal objections relate to the composition. The problem with the composition is that a fear factor kicks in when a smaller local authority is told it will lose its power to do its local area plan. The fear is that the larger local authority, which could dominate these committees on a proportionality basis, will just dictate in a way that brings about a boundary change by the back door. I am not going to be dishonest to the Deputies here. There is no attempt to suggest that it is proportional. It is a very genuine attempt to deal with a completely intractable issue. We all know that no county boundaries will be changed for the foreseeable future of the Oireachtas. That is the position as far as any of us can tell. In such circumstances, how can we use the existing structures to create something new that looks at these towns and cities in their entirety? That is where I am coming from with this idea.

The members of these committees will be elected from the local authority electoral area adjacent to the town or city. In the case of Drogheda, for example, I understand the Drogheda urban local electoral area of the Drogheda municipal district adjoins the Laytown-Bettystown-Duleek local electoral area.

It is called Laytown-Bettystown.

The members of the committee will come proportionately from the two local electoral areas in question. It will not be up to the ruling groups on the council as a whole. It will be up to the local councillors who are elected in those areas. If these committees are to mean anything, they cannot have members from 40 miles away who do not represent the areas in question.

Equally, I have no problem accepting the amendments that were alluded to by Deputy Ó Cuív and others that would involve extending the backgrounds from which some of these outside people might come. My understanding of the legislation is that it proposes that the two cathaoirligh, along with the chair of the group, will be responsible for choosing the outside people, of whom there will be either two or four. I am open to extending the backgrounds from which they might come. I hear what members are saying. Deputy Casey said it strongly. He said it might seem in the cold light of day that I am trying to take powers off councillors. Local authority representative groups have expressed support for the idea that, in certain limited circumstances, somebody from business could be involved. In the Waterford example, it could be a representative of the traders in the middle of the city. Business and trade has been mentioned. There have been massive planning issues through the generations in all of these towns. Out-of-town centres have been built and town centres have been destroyed. That is why this provision is included. Deputies might want it to be worded differently and that can be considered on Report Stage. I specifically requested that these people would not have votes because that is what elected people are there to do. I believe there is value in having in the room some people from the community background or the kind of utility background. Maybe they should not be full members. Maybe they should have an ex officio type of status. The elected person should be the paramount person. I have no issue with that.

I would like to respond to some of the other stuff that was raised. Deputy Cullinane asked about the hierarchy. Essentially, it is being proposed that these groups will draw up their local area plans. We are not throwing out the local area plan that has already been done in Bray, for example. The next local area plan will include all of Bray, including the part of Bray that is in County Dublin.

Will it include the rural areas that do not form part of the town, if the Minister of State knows what I mean?

I will answer that. One of the amendments - I cannot remember which one - refers to the contiguous areas beside these urban areas. It will be a matter for each group to decide whether rural areas should be included. We are giving them the freedom to make that choice. It may be the case that a one-size-fits-all approach would not work. It might apply in Bray and it might not apply in Waterford, or vice versa. We are not prescriptive. The existing statutory provisions for the drawing up of local area plans are being retained. We are not changing a word of the consultation questions that are asked, or of the engagement with the public.

That all has to be done the same. I do not accept the argument about staff. The staff in the local authorities are doing these local area plans anyway. In this instance we are talking about staff being effectively seconded. They are not going to be body corporate. They will not have separate budgets. The staff that currently do the local area plans in both local authorities will do it together for the whole town. That is the thinking behind the proposal. There will not be that cost as it is being borne by the local authorities anyway. Rather than having two plans, we just want to have one area plan that will make sense of both areas together.

Deputy Cullinane referred to budget implications in planning for funding, but this is already the case. If a road is proposed in one of these areas that crosses the boundary from Meath, for example, into Louth, there are a number of mechanisms they can use. Both local authorities can apply separately or there can be a lead authority if they agree this is a measure they want to do. Those mechanisms will remain in place.

I will come back to the Minister of State after I have let some other members in.

I will follow on from Deputy Casey's comments. The genuine concerns he raised around formalising synergy, shared interests, works programmes and goals between areas that cross county boundaries make absolute sense. I could argue about the composition, and I will, but we also need to get the sequencing right. There is a lot of additional work. We have covered many of the points, including during last night's meeting, but this proposal needs a review period. If we are to do it, then a review period needs to be formally built into it. If the idea is to be rolled out to eight areas and if it works, there are more areas it could also go to. I had mentioned some areas to the Minister of State at yesterday's discussion. I have concerns around the timing but I take the Minister of State's point that the report was agreed by Government and laid before the committee.

I and my party want to be reasonable in how we approach this. I could agree that we would go to the next stage but, if I am not happy, as the spokesperson for my party, I reserve the right to table amendments on Report Stage to withdraw these sections in their entirety. I would do that because I absolutely agree with the concept. I have seen the issues in local authorities across the State and in my own local authority. We need that level of formalisation. We would have worked with the Minister of State through the process if I had known about it, but it was not on my radar and I do not believe it was on the radar of any of my colleagues that this was coming down the track. There is more in the Bill that I agree with than I disagree with.

In the context of being constructive on these sections, I agree with Deputy Casey that the membership of the urban district committees should be for elected members. I feel very strongly about this. I have no issue in consulting such a consultative committee, which is useful, and I have been involved in consultative committees in the Dáil and in local authorities with interested groups of people. They were not from elite or exclusive communities. They were from the whole community. That is what I am interested in, as are all of us. The proportionality piece needs to be dealt with along with how the members of the body are selected. We need to get under the bonnet a little bit more on this, so to speak. I am happy to engage with the Minister of State from Tuesday.

I and my party colleagues have been working through this Bill since yesterday to put forward the changes we would like to see. As I said yesterday, there are some issues with it but I will assent to letting it go to Report Stage. Following these discussions, however, if I am not happy that issues are being addressed, I will reserve the right to vote to remove these sections on Report Stage by way of amendment.

I apologise for being late to the meeting and I thank the Chairman for allowing me to contribute. I did not hear a lot of what has happened but I am not out of sympathy with what I have heard so far.

Consider the Drogheda-east Meath experience. I referred yesterday to the controversy that arose there between the two statutory authorities having agreed a plan but which did not have statutory powers. The local council overrode that plan. As a result, green belts were no longer green belts, areas that had not been zoned for housing were then zoned, X had land zoned by the county council plan and then it turned out that Y was a beneficiary with regard to zoning. What we are talking about, when one gets down to it, is green belt planning, recreation and amenity planning and zoning. Those are the three issues that have to be transparent, accountable and above board in every respect.

I read through the minutes of Meath County Council and I went back years to look at what was going on. Perhaps some people in the Department may have read them also. The point now is what the Department is proposing to do. Take Drogheda as a model. Drogheda would have three members on the new body and Laytown-Bettystown would have three members. I do not have a difficulty with that. It is a very good thing that they talk to each other because people in one area might have recreational amenities, for example, the Laytown beaches and so on, and the people in those areas may come into Drogheda for their hospitals or education. That is a good synergy. My question is around the county development plan, the zoning issues and the green belt issues. If, as arose before, the county council's view is that the green belt should be from A to B, and if this new committee says the opposite, who is the authority on that planning decision? I believe this is at the heart of the matter.

One of the key problems was illustrated when a group of developers understood from meetings with key people, which were well documented, that they would have zoning for X and they did not get it. This was one of the rows that happened. I and everybody else wants this never to happen again. We need transparency, accountability and a direct line of accountability, with input from wherever it should come from. There must be authoritative, definitive and proper planning in terms of green belt areas, and in recreation and amenity. This is very important. Otherwise we might find vast areas of land rezoned for housing, with no proper amenities put in place. There are a substantial number of houses with very few amenities in the east Meath region. It was done the wrong way. That is being addressed now but I am conscious that this could happen again. Perhaps the Minister of State could come back on those points.

I thank the Minister of State for engaging with us constructively on this. I am of a similar view to Deputy Darragh O'Brien. If the Minister of State is willing to sit down with us on the basis of what he has just outlined, that is a reasonable proposition that we could support.

I will sound a word of caution, which I am sure is also going through the heads of the officials even though they may not be able to say it officially.

The Deputy has great sensitivity.

Yes, but it is a serious point. We are setting ourselves a very difficult task to tease through this stuff within a week to consider amendments and have staff draft amendments. I am agreeing to this but I am also saying that I am not so sure, even with the best will in the world from everybody, that we will able to do this right. We may have to review it, which is being eminently reasonable. The Minister of State still has not answered a range of the questions, but given that we will meet about this again, perhaps the best way to do it would be as an informal working group. We could set a couple of hours aside next week to tease this out without the formality of an open committee hearing. This is the way for us to do this. I would like to see that meeting happening next week.

Tuesday. I will email all the committee members.

What about the informal meeting? There is no point in doing it in this setting.

I may not make it next Tuesday.

The Deputy's views on this are identical to mine.

I will conclude. I am sure that everyone inside the room is very clear on this, but just so nobody outside the room misunderstands, I want to be very clear that I am not supporting the four amendments as they stand. While I will not object to them today, it will be to facilitate that process as outlined and in recognition that the Minister of State is willing to work with us on it.

Maybe we can thrash this out later. I am still not fully clear at what level this new urban area plan is going to be and who adopts it at the end of the day.

If it is a local area plan which sits under the county development plan, it goes for only one period of public consultation and is then adopted. An environs plan is like a county plan. The variations are made and it is put on public display again. If I knew what the process was, it would probably put my mind at ease somewhat.

I return to the composition of the proposed committee. If I was elected to Bray Town Council and if I was, unfortunately, not one of the three elected to this new committee, I would have no say in how my town develops. In order for this to work, all the municipal district members should be on the committee. We can adopt county development plans with 50 councillors and there is nothing to stop us adopting this plan with the full complement of municipal district councillors. What is the point in being elected for Bray council if I end up having no say on the plan that will direct the town for the next number of years? If I was a Bray council public representative who was not on the committee, and if the plan I had adopted was superseded by this plan, in which I have no input to adopt, amend or anything else, I would feel rather left out of the whole process.

It was fair of the Minister of State to offer an informal briefing next week. In the light of that, rather than reopening the matter, I propose we press ahead with the section. Is that agreed?

Yes. In Deputy O'Dowd's absence we used his example of the two local authorities subsequently walking away from an agreed plan. He outlined the issue well. It is often the case that a larger town is in one location while a smaller one is, say, on another side of a bridge, but much of the recreational space for the larger town is on the other side of the bridge and there is no input across the boundary.

We will not be in a position to ensure every councillor and adjoining district will be on the plan.

We will finish the discussion on Tuesday.

Yes, but before I finish I must raise one matter which I have just remembered. We can insert a reference to the fact that the members of staff who will draw up the local area plans will be selected from the two authorities. To use Waterford as an example, most of the staff are planning officials from Waterford City and County Council and there are one or two from Kilkenny. That reference might be a method of trying to deal with some of the imbalance questions. The principle of parity at political level is not proportionate but it is essential if we are to avoid the trench warfare that has surrounded boundary questions. We can insert an amendment that requires the staff composition to follow the population. Most of us have been members of local authorities and we know the planning section draws up-----

I am not particularly concerned from a staff perspective. To follow on from points made by Deputies Casey and Ó Broin, letting the Bill as amended pass this Stage does not mean we support its amendments. We have articulated some serious concerns, omissions and matters we might consider further. We will allow it to progress but we reserve the right to table amendments should we wish. As Deputy Casey said in the context of the composition of membership, I hope we can work on that without the door closing. There are different ideas and we can work through them on Tuesday.

To clarify, the Minister of State will know how controversial Monksland was. I presume we will have an opportunity to discuss it and what measures will be put in place in that regard. There will be similarity with the other areas.

The Deputy has raised the matter and, therefore, he may raise it on Report Stage and at the informal briefing. In the interests of moving along, and as the Minister of State has been fair by offering to hold a meeting next week, the members have also been fair in their willingness to press ahead. In the absence of reaching agreement, members may table amendments to the section on Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 112:

In page 26, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

“Urban area committee

40. (1) The local authorities within whose administrative areas an urban area is situated shall, not later than 6 months after the commencement of this section, appoint a committee (in this section referred to as an “urban area committee”) to perform the functions of an urban area committee conferred by this Part.

(2) The members of an urban area committee shall be appointed by the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area for which that committee is appointed is situated.

(3) The following shall be members of an urban area committee:

(a) the cathaoirleach of each of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated,

(b) 6 other persons nominated in accordance with subsection (4),

(c) not fewer than 2 and not more than 4 persons who, in the opinion of the local authorities by whom they are appointed, have experience and expertise in relation to —

(i) the provision of transport,

(ii) the provision of housing,

(iii) the development of infrastructure, or

(iv) business and trade, nominated in accordance with subsection (5).

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), each local authority within whose administrative area the urban area concerned is situated shall nominate, for appointment to the urban area committee in accordance with paragraph (b) of subsection (3), 3 persons (other than the cathaoirleach of that local authority) who are members of that local authority elected in respect of local electoral areas situated (in whole or in part) within that urban area.

(5) The cathaoirligh of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated shall, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Minister, nominate persons for appointment to an urban area committee in accordance with paragraph (c) of subsection (3) from among persons who are not members of either such local authority.

(6) The chairperson of an urban area committee shall be appointed from among the members of that committee by —

(a) those members, or

(b) the Minister, where those members fail to appoint a chairperson of that committee within 2 weeks from their appointment as members of that committee.

(7) An urban area committee shall hold such and so many meetings as may be necessary for the due fulfilment of their functions.

(8) The local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated shall fix the date, time and place of the first meeting of an urban area committee.

(9) At a meeting of an urban area committee —

(a) the chairperson of that committee shall, if present, be the chairperson of the meeting, or

(b) if and so long as the chairperson of that committee is not present or if that office is vacant, the other members of that committee who are present shall choose one of their number to be chairperson of the meeting.

(10) Every question at a meeting of an urban area committee shall, subject to subsection (11) , be determined by a majority of the votes of the members of that committee present and voting on the question, and, in the case of an equal division of votes, the chairperson shall have a second or casting vote.

(11) The members of an urban area committee appointed in accordance with paragraph (c) of subsection (3) shall not be entitled to vote on any question at a meeting of that committee.

(12) Subject to subsection (14), an urban area committee may act notwithstanding one or more vacancies among their members.

(13) Subject to this section, an urban area committee shall regulate their procedure by rules or otherwise.

(14) The quorum for a meeting of an urban area committee shall be 4 members of that committee entitled to vote at such meeting.

(15) (a) An urban area committee shall appoint such persons to provide the urban area committee with administrative support as the urban area committee shall determine from among persons nominated under paragraph (b) by the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area for which that urban area committee was appointed is situated.

(b) Each local authority within whose administrative area part of an urban area is situated shall, after consultation with the other local authority within whose administrative area part of that urban area is situated, nominate such and so many of the members of its staff as it may determine for the purposes of paragraph (a).

(16) The members of the staff of a local authority assigned to provide administrative support to an urban area committee in accordance with subsection (15) shall perform functions on behalf of that committee under the direction and control of that committee. ”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 113:

In page 26, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

“ Functions of urban area committees

41. (1) For the purposes of this section, an urban area committee may designate any part or parts adjoining the urban area concerned of an administrative area of a local authority in which part of the urban area is situated.

(2) If an urban area committee fails to make a designation under this section within 3 months from their appointment, the Minister may, by order, make such a designation.

(3) The functions of a planning authority under Chapter II of Part II of the Act of 2000 shall be performable in relation to an urban area by the urban area committee appointed in respect of that urban area, and accordingly the said Chapter II shall apply to an urban area subject to the following modifications:

(a) the insertion of the following section:

“Definitions

17A. In this Chapter ‘urban area’ and ‘urban area committee’ have the same meanings as they have in Part 5 of the Local Government Act 2018 .”,

(b) the substitution of “chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated” for “manager” in each place that it occurs,

(c) in section 18, by —

(i) the substitution, of the following subsections for subsection (1):

“(1) An urban area committee may, at any time, prepare a local area plan for the urban area in respect of which the urban area committee was appointed.

(1A) A local area plan in force in respect of an urban area immediately before the appointment of the urban area committee for that urban area shall, upon and after such appointment, continue to have effect in relation to that urban area until the making by that urban area committee of a local area plan under subsection (1) (as modified by subsection (3) or (4) of section 41 of the Local Government Act 2018) or the amendment or revocation by that urban area committee of the first-mentioned local area plan under subsection (5) (as so modified).”,

(ii) the deletion of subsection (2) and paragraph (b) of subsection (4),

(iii) the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (5):

“(5) An urban area committee may at any time amend or revoke —

(a) a local area plan prepared by them, or

(b) a local area plan prepared by a planning authority in so far as it applies to the urban area in respect of which that urban area committee was appointed.”,

and

(iv) the substitution, in subsection (6), of “urban area committee” for “planning authority”,

(d) in section 19, by —

(i) the deletion of paragraphs (a), (b) and (bb) of subsection (1),

(ii) the substitution, in paragraph (c) of subsection (1), of “urban area committee” for “planning authority”,

(iii) the substitution, in paragraph (d) of subsection (1), of “an urban area committee may, as they consider appropriate, decide to defer the sending of a notice under section 20(3)(a)(i)” for “a planning authority may, as they consider appropriate, by resolution defer the sending of a notice under section 20(3)(a)(i)”,

(iv) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (e) of subsection (1) —

“(e) An urban area committee shall not make a decision under paragraph (d) until they have —

(i) notified the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area for which that committee was appointed is situated of the proposed decision and the reasons therefor, and

(ii) sought and obtained from those chief executives —

(I) an opinion that the objectives of the local area plan have not been substantially secured, and

(II) confirmation —

(A) that the sending and publishing of the notices may be deferred, and

(B) of the period for which they may be deferred.”,

(v) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (f) of subsection (1) —

“(f) Notification of a decision under paragraph (d) shall be published by the urban area committee in a newspaper circulating in the urban area concerned not later than 2 weeks after the decision is made, and notice of the decision shall be made available —

(i) for inspection at the offices of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area is situated by members of the public during office hours, and

(ii) by publishing the notice on the internet website of the urban area committee and the internet websites of those local authorities.”,

(vi) the substitution, in subsection (2), of “A local area plan shall be consistent with any regional spatial and economic strategy that applies to the area of the plan and shall consist of a written statement which shall include” for “A local area plan shall be consistent with the objectives of the development plan, its core strategy, and any regional spatial and economic strategy that apply to the area of the plan and shall consist of a written statement and a plan or plans which may include”,

(vii) the substitution, in subsection (2), of “urban area committee” for “planning authority”,

(viii) the substitution, in subsection (2A), of “urban area committee” for “planning authority”,

(ix) the deletion of subsection (2B), and (x) the substitution, in subsection (3), of “urban area committee” for “planning authority”, and

(e) in section 20, by —

(i) the substitution of “urban area committee” for “planning authority” in each place that it occurs,

(ii) the substitution of “urban area committee” for “members of the planning authority” in each place that it occurs,

(iii) the substitution of “urban area committee” for “members of a planning authority” in each place that it occurs,

(iv) the substitution of “report of the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated” for “manager’s report” in each place that it occurs,

(v) the substitution, in subparagraph (i) of paragraph (c) of subsection (3), of “chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated” for “manager of a planning authority”,

(vi) the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (ia) of paragraph (c) of subsection (3):

“(ia) The report of the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated shall be published by those local authorities on their internet websites as soon as practicable after the report is submitted to the urban area committee concerned under subparagraph (i)”,

(vii) the substitution, in clause (III) of subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (c) of subsection (3), of “their” for “his or her”,

(viii) the substitution, in subparagraph (i) of paragraph (d) of subsection (3), of “urban area committee concerned” for “members of a planning authority”,

(ix) the substitution, in subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (d) of subsection (3) of —

(I) “their” for “his or her”, and

(II) “the urban area committee, unless the urban area committee” for “all the members of the authority, unless the planning authority, by resolution”,

(x) the substitution, in paragraph (e) of subsection (3), of —

(I) “urban area committee” for “members of the authority”,

(II) “making of a decision” for “passing of a resolution”, and

(III) “urban area committee consider” for “authority considers”,

(xi) the substitution, in paragraph (g) of subsection (3), of —

(I) “they consider” for “he or she considers”, and

(II) “making of a decision” for “passing of a resolution”,

(xii) the substitution, in paragraph (ja) of subsection (3), of —

(I) the following subparagraph for subparagraph (i):

“(i) Written submissions and observations received by an urban area committee under this subsection shall, subject to subparagraph (ii), be published on the internet website of that committee not later than 10 days working from their receipt by the committee,”,

(II) “urban area committee” for “local authority” in clause (III) of subparagraph (ii),

(xiii) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (ka):

“(ka) The report of the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the urban area concerned is situated shall be published by those local authorities on their internet websites as soon as practicable after the report is submitted to the urban area committee concerned under paragraph (k).”,

(xiv) the substitution, in subparagraph (iii) of paragraph (l) of subsection (3), of —

(I) “their” for “his or her”, and

(II) “they consider” for “he or she considers”,

(xv) the substitution, in paragraph (m) of subsection (3), of “urban area committee” for “members of the authority”,

(xvi) in paragraph (n) of subsection (3), by —

(I) the deletion, of “by resolution”, and

(II) the substitution of “the urban area committee” for “all the members of the authority”,

(xvii) the deletion, in paragraph (o) of subsection (3), of —

(I) “by resolution”, and

(II) subparagraph (i),

(xviii) the deletion of paragraph (p) of subsection (3), and

(xix) the deletion of paragraph (a) of subsection (5) (inserted by section 17 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018).

(4) The functions of a planning authority under Chapter II of Part II of the Planning and Development Act 2000 shall be performable in relation to a greater urban area by the urban area committee appointed in respect of the urban area that forms part of that greater urban area, and accordingly the said Chapter II shall apply to a greater urban area subject to the modifications specified in subparagraphs (ii), (iii) and (iv) of paragraph (c), subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (vi), (vii), (viii), (ix) and (x) of paragraph (d) and subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (vii), (viii), (ix), (x), (xi), (xii), (xiv), (xv), (xvi), (xvii), (xviii) and (xix) of paragraph (e), of subsection (3), and the following modifications:

(a) the insertion of the following section:

“Definitions

17A. In this Chapter ‘greater urban area’ and ‘urban area committee’ have the same meanings as they have in Part 6 of the Local Government Act 2018 .”,

(b) the substitution of “chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area concerned is situated” for “manager” in each place that it occurs,

(c) in section 18, by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):

“(1) An urban area committee may, at any time, prepare a local area plan for the greater urban area within which is situated the urban area in respect of which the urban area committee was appointed.

(1A) A local area plan in force in respect of a greater urban area immediately before the appointment of the urban area committee for the urban area that forms part of that greater urban area shall, upon and after such appointment, continue to have effect in respect of that greater urban area until the making by that urban area committee of a local area plan under subsection (1) (as modified by subsection (3) or (4) of section 41 of the Local Government Act 2018) or the amendment or revocation by that urban area committee of the first-mentioned local area plan under subsection (5) (as so modified).”,

(d) in section 19, by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (f) of subsection (1):

“(f) Notification of a decision under paragraph (d) shall be published by the urban area committee in a newspaper circulating in the greater urban area concerned not later than 2 weeks after the decision is made and notice of the decision shall be made available —

(i) for inspection at the offices of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area is situated by members of the public during office hours, and

(ii) by publishing the notice on the internet website of the urban area committee and the internet websites of those local authorities.”,

and

(e) in section 20, by —

(i) the substitution of “chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area concerned is situated” for “manager” in each place that it occurs,

(ii) the substitution of “report of the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area concerned is situated” for “manager’s report” in each place that it occurs,

(iii) the substitution, in subparagraph (i) of paragraph (c) of subsection (3), of “chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area concerned is situated” for “manager of a planning authority”,

(iv) the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (ia) of paragraph (c) of subsection (3):

“(ia) The report of the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area concerned is situated shall be published by those local authorities on their internet websites as soon as practicable after the report is submitted to the urban area committee concerned under subparagraph (i)”, and

(v) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (ka) of subsection (3):

“(ka) The report of the chief executives of the local authorities within whose administrative areas the greater urban area concerned is situated shall be published by those local authorities on their internet websites as soon as practicable after the report is submitted to the urban area committee concerned under paragraph (k).”.

(5) Subsection (1) of section 131A of the Principal Act shall not apply to a function performable by an urban area committee in accordance with this section. ”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 114:

In page 26, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 10 of Act of 2000

42. Section 10 of the Act of 2000 is amended by the insertion of the following subsection:

“(11) Any provision of a development plan that is inconsistent with a local area plan made by an urban area committee under Part 6 of the Local Government Act 2018 shall not have effect in relation to the urban area or greater urban area to which that local area plan applies.”. ”.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 32

Amendments Nos. 115 to 123, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 115 to 122, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 123. Amendments Nos. 115 to 123, inclusive, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 115:

In page 26, line 5, to delete “The Principal Act is amended” and substitute “Chapter 2 of Part 14 of the Principal Act is amended by”.

I must go to the Chamber to move a housing Bill but I will return to contribute. I do not mind the meeting continuing in my absence. I ask that I be notified if there is a vote.

That is fine.

There is little point in moving amendments if the section will be removed, which is why I wanted to give members the opportunity to speak on the issue.

It is not for me to tell the Minister of State how to do his job, but amendments have been tabled for discussion. He has tabled some of them and is introducing the section, which reflects the Department's views and ideas for the future of Galway city and county. To contextualise the debate that will arise from these amendments, it would be useful if he outlined his views. I have had detailed discussions with him on this and I highlighted some concerns that members of my party have on the matter. I must move a housing Bill in the Dáil but I will return. It would be useful for the committee if the Minister of State could start a discussion and give context.

Amendments Nos. 115 to 118, inclusive, are drafting amendments to position the reference to Chapter 2 of Part 14 of the principal Act at the start of the provision. Amendments Nos. 119 to 122, inclusive, are drafting amendments to add a comma, remove the reference to section 145 of the 2001 Act and insert "the appointment of" before "the chief executive".

Amendment No. 123 adds paragraph (c) to the published section 32, to further amend Chapter 2 of Part 14 of the 2001 Act by replacing paragraph (a) of section 145(1) to encompass future appointments of chief executive of the Galway local authority should the need arise for the appointment of a further such chief executive subsequent to the first appointment by the Minister under the new section 144A. If something were to happen to an appointed joint chief executive officer, therefore, another could be appointed.

The section seeks to put in place one chief executive with responsibility for both local authorities in Galway. It arises out of a Government decision taken a number of months ago and will allow for a limited amount of administrative integration. It does not at this stage diminish the legal position of either local authority. The scheduled 2019 local elections will be held by the two existing authorities as currently constituted with two separate plenary councils. The decision to progress preliminary work to set out the basis for a future merger arises from the work of the independent Galway local government committee, which unanimously recommended the establishment of a new unified Galway authority rather than boundary alteration or retention of the status quo in the local authority areas in Galway.

The group concluded this would maximise the potential of the region to maintain, secure and grow a sustainable economic base into the future, combining the respective strengths of the two existing authorities in terms of resources, staff and expertise.

A subsequent expert advisory group was established in December 2016 to carry out further detailed examination and planning arising from the 2015 recommendation. The group endorsed and confirmed the recommendation in 2015 of the Galway local government review committee report for amalgamation between the city and county councils, and stated this is now all the more urgent in order to capitalise on the funding opportunities under the national planning framework and the capital programme, and to have the capacity to engage in activity such as capital development funded by borrowings. The group was unanimous in its view that amalgamation is required to drive the development of Galway in the context of its regional, national and international remit. Other key specific recommendations include the caveat that any amalgamation must be preceded by addressing noted deficiencies in both human and financial resources, and a need to strengthen the structure of municipal districts so their full potential is explored and resourced. Work is under way on this issue in a specific way for Galway and in a general way via the report on municipal governance for districts, towns and local electoral areas, which is with the joint committee at present. I met on a couple of occasions the Galway Oireachtas Members, and I thank them for that. A full debate on the proposed merger will be possible when the merger legislation is brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2019.

I have taken the view, both with the Cork and Galway elements, that I defer to my party colleagues in those constituencies, and Deputy Ó Laoghaire led for us on the Cork end. I have been speaking at length with my colleagues in Galway city and county councils, who are very concerned, and I want to relay those concerns to the Minister of State and let him know where we stand. I am being given the impression there is not a great level of enthusiasm or even public engagement in Galway city or county for the merger proposition. Unlike Cork, where there was a lively and at times heated exchange which led to the majority view that has since emerged in the legislation, I am being given the impression that is not the case in the first instance in Galway. Notwithstanding the very strong recommendations of the expert group, the public engagement has been limited.

It is also clear there has not been the same level of political majority support for the proposition that was eventually hammered out in Cork. I appreciate these things are complicated and very difficult but, for example, nobody bar one Deputy came in here to express any fundamental objection to the Cork elements of this Bill, although some had concerns with the detail. I have met delegations of city and county councillors from Cork, as they met all of the housing spokespeople, and I have a sense of where they were at. Clearly, the situation in Galway is not at the same stage, and I want to put that on record. Given all of this, why is it that we have one element of the Galway merger in a Bill that is essentially about Cork, when there will be another Bill about Galway early next year? It would surely have been better to have it all in the one Bill after reaching at least some degree of majority view of the elected members of those constituencies. I do not understand the timing and sequencing.

As the Minister of State said, the issue of finances is central, and the Galway members will be speaking on this at greater length. If the finances are crucial and if they have not been resolved, it adds even further to the question of why we should be pressing ahead with the Galway element now. As somebody who is neutral on this, given it is up to the good people of Galway to decide how these things should run, I do not understand it. Unless the Minister of State gives me very good answers to those questions, I am left in the position of saying this needs to be taken out of the Bill at this stage. That does not mean I am opposed to or in favour of the merger, but that it would be better to deal with it in a comprehensive Bill. Otherwise, it gives the impression that it is notwithstanding public disinterest - the Galway Deputies can correct me if I am wrong on that - and political concern in the Opposition that we are pressing ahead with this. As a Deputy from outside the city and county of Galway who does not know the detail, that is not something I could support at this stage.

I think this proposal is previous. What guides me in the first place is the report published by the expert group. The report and the letter accompanying it, and the press release issued by the expert group, were clear that, prior to any decision, it is the underlying money issue, not the money for the merger, particularly in Galway County Council but also in Galway City Council, that should be addressed. The covering letter states: "It is well recognised by the Expert Advisory Group and local government arrangements in Galway that the funding available to the two local authorities in Galway was inadequate". The press release stated that the recommended amalgamation must be preceded by addressing efficiency in both human and financial resources as noted by the group. The report states:

The Group notes the significant revenue underfunding of the Galway local authorities relative to comparators, in addition to staffing constraints in key areas. On the basis that the existing resources available to both organisations are not commensurate with realising the vision of an effective amalgamated authority, the Expert Advisory Group recommends that the existing deficiencies in respect of both the human and financial resources be expeditiously resolved as an essential prerequisite to the amalgamation process.

What I keep saying again and again is that we have to sort the underlying money first. We have had discussions but the discussions related to a small amount of money that was to be given as part of the merger process, which we would have got anyway, even if we were well funded. It had nothing with regard to dealing with the underlying financial issue that the experts who were appointed by the Department set as a prerequisite and a prelude.

There is a second issue of concern. This seems like a pre-emptive move to decide that merger is the way forward. Again, we need to look at what happened in Cork. I understand the recommendation in Cork was for merger but, when it was looked at in a much wider context by a small expert group, and when all the implications were taken into account, it was decided that there would not be a merger but there would be a boundary extension.

We have submitted a document where we list out the unknowns we need answers to before we could consider this matter further. Obviously, the first unknown is that we need to have the money on the table but, after that, there are a whole series of other questions on which we need clarification. Then, we could talk to the public, and to all the interests within the public, from Inishbofin all the way over to Ballinasloe, and from Crusheen on the Galway-Clare border up north, where I live myself, to Dunmore and Glinsk, and all of these areas that are miles away, and then make an informed decision. These are very practical issues because policy cannot be decided without going in detail through the outworking of how this might work.

I suggest the Minister of State withdraw this section and find some way to interact with the elected members for Galway, that is, the Oireachtas Members but also the local authority members of both the city and county councils, in order to deal with all these issues. In that way, we will all come to an informed decision as to what is best not only for Galway city, which is very important, but also for all the people living on the offshore islands, right across the county to the plains of east Galway, where the food we eat is produced.

We need to have this debate first. It seems to me that the Minister is putting the cart before the horse. We need to take the horse around from the back and hitch it to the front of the cart.

The Minister of State is probably tired of listening to me but I am not going to change my approach. My approach is based on the fact that I have read all three reports, on my experience as a city councillor for 17 years and on my knowledge that bigger is not better.

The Minister of State is taking one aspect of the report, the recommendation of the proposed amalgamation and ignoring all the other points outlined by Deputy Ó Cuív. The city and county councils are underfunded, under-resourced and do not have enough staff. Notwithstanding all that, there is a very generous acknowledgement that both local authorities work very well together and they share resources. Nowhere in this documentation does it jump out that the greatest challenge is the fact that we have two local authorities. What jumps out is lack of staff, lack of money and the serious problems with regard to housing, transport and so on. This is not the result of having two local authorities but the direct result of a failure on the part of local authorities at one level and a bigger failure on the part of the Government to ensure funding for housing and providing sustainable transport. These are the important issues in Galway, not a diversion in relation to a proposed amalgamation.

The report is not consistent. It refers to the serious lack of staff and then it states the same staff being united and being an enviable resource to any organisation. It talks about a condition precedent, which has been clearly articulated by Deputy Ó Cuív. We need the money and the staff. The challenge in Galway is money and staff, not amalgamation, but that has not been addressed. I do not like saying give us the money first, but I would like a recognition by the expert group of a lack of resources and a lack of staff. That must be dealt with first.

The expert group also talks about increasing the range of services provided by the local authorities, but the Minister of State has not mentioned any of those. I have just come from the Committee of Public Accounts and over and over we see that amalgamations have led to significant problems without proper planning. We articulate what the taxpayer picks up after the event. The ETB is the latest example of that. The ETBs in their accounts have highlighted that they do not have enough resources for the internal audit. Can one imagine that? They highlight that the computers and the IT is not suitable. Five years on from the amalgamation, it is a mess. The local ETB has confirmed that to us and it is no reflection on the staff. They are struggling with a merger that went through without any planning whatsoever, with no anticipation of what could happen and five years later, we are seeing the direct effects of that at a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts. This is costing a lot of money and is burden on the taxpayer.

I will now talk about County Galway. I worked in Ballinasloe for many years in a different capacity so I am very familiar with the town and its hinterland. Galway goes from the Aran Islands to Portumna and Ahascragh. The Aran Islands are Irish speaking while in Inish Boffin, which is further north, they speak English.

It is totally wrong to say we need a city to drive the development of the county. That is a false concept that is not based on reality. The initial report of November 2015 stated that from the outset, the committee noticed a distinct lack of vision, planning and resource allocation by key stakeholders in regard to the need to revitalise towns throughout the county. I have no idea where the committee got that idea. My colleagues, Deputies Ó Cuív and Grealish, have repeatedly talked about the rural areas dying on their feet for lack of investment. Ballinasloe has a harbour and a railway station and it is going under. It makes no sense that it should be going under. It could be a feeder town for Galway with sustainable transport. The proposed plan would make the situation worse.

Even if I am incorrect, I can see no reason the committee would want to go ahead with its plan now. There is no bona fides in what it is proposing to do. The correct thing would be to bring forward a proper Bill with all the elements that we can discuss and look at. Well over 90% of all elected Deputies and councillors said "No" to this proposal. As far as I know, the vast majority engaged in the process. I certainly did, but was horrified the process was held in a hotel. I was horrified by the lack of Irish spoken and I was not over impressed by the expertise. Be that as it may, we now have the reports. The Minister is ignoring the content of the reports. I will be pressing my amendment.

I concur with my colleagues, Deputies Ó Cuív and Connolly. I would have liked to have been able to have come into the Dáil and to this meeting and said that I supported this Bill because it is the future for Galway. It is not; it is ill thought out and it is being rushed. Proper debate and discussion has not taken place. The Minister of State has to listen to the politicians from Galway. We are elected by the people of Galway. We are on the ground and hear what is happening on the ground. There are a total of 57 councillors, with only three supporting this merger.

I request the Minister of State to come to a meeting of Galway County Council and a meeting of Galway City Council and sit in both Chambers with councillors. I want the Minister of State to give a commitment that he will do that and will listen to the councillors. They should have a say in this also. I firmly believe that Galway County Council is being deliberately starved of funds by the Department to force it to agree to a merger. I am not going to repeat what I said in the Dáil when this was debated. My colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív, said recently that if Galway were to receive the proper level of funding on a par with any local authority, it should be getting an extra €70 million. We would require an additional €70 million to bring us up to par with other local authorities.

Galway is at the bottom of the list in respect of the local property tax. I have been told it will come up the list in the review but I do not want to be told we will be number five in the review of the property tax. I want to know exactly what funding will be put in place. I do not want to vote for a Bill that I will regret in four or five years' time when I see the results of no proper planning and debate. That includes the elected representatives in Galway also. I want to know exactly to the penny what funding will be put in place if this happens without the support of all elected representatives from Galway, both local and national, which I think would be very wrong. It would be very wrong to railroad this Bill through without the political support of the vast majority of the Oireachtas Members and the county councillors. If one wants this to work and to merge both city and county and have the two chambers coming together, one needs them to support the Bill, and not be against it.

I support my colleagues, Deputies Connolly and Ó Cúiv, and the amendment and ask that all reference to Galway is withdrawn from this Bill. Let the Cork Bill go through. There is support for the Cork Bill in the Chamber. I compliment Deputy Ó Broin for listening to us and to our concerns. He came in here with an open mind. He has not given a commitment as to what he will do but he has listened to the debate and he will make a decision. I ask the Minister of State to take Galway out of the Bill. Let us have a full and proper debate and not appoint a chief executive. Once that chief executive is appointed for both the city and county, the train will have left the station and will be heading down the railway line and we will not be able to stop it.

I support Deputies Ó Cúiv and Connolly and all the councillors in Galway who are of the same view. I have not heard Deputy Rabbitte's contribution yet but I hope she will support us. I know Deputy Fitzmaurice has great reservations.

Take Galway out of the Bill. Let us bring in a new Bill in the new year to deal with the appointment of a new chief executive, with the funding, with the merger and with the issues that go from one end of the county to the other. That is all I ask of the Minister of State. I ask that all Oireachtas Members support us on this.

I thank the Chairman and the Minister of State for his time this afternoon. I will be brief in my contribution. I did not speak on this Bill in the Chamber. However, I attended all the consultations held in Galway. I do not like to come under the shadow of anybody, and certainly not under the shadow of Cork. I would like us to have our own entity, to be out on our own and to have a proper debate and discussion. We owe it to the citizens of Galway, to our elected representatives, namely, the councillors, and to the Oireachtas Members. Having us included here is not good enough for the people of Galway. I reject the idea that this should be allowed to happen.

Deputy Grealish has put it correctly. "Starved" is the word we would use in terms of what has happened to Galway. It has been starved of funding for years. It is going on since 1996. We were very fortunate to meet Department officials earlier this year. They were wonderful in explaining to us the breakdown in terms of where it went wrong. There were 530 separate accounts all rolled into a number of accounts. Everything got pulled in together. The trouble was that when that happened, we saw Mayo take the lead ahead of us and we got left behind. When one looked at Galway and at Mayo, the only thing that was different was a Taoiseach. Let us call a spade a spade here. That was when we started to unravel, and I am not afraid to say it. We are underfunded, under-resourced and do not have enough staff. That is what keeps jumping out in the report. Professor Eoin O'Sullivan did a very comprehensive report.

Deputy Grealish is right. He has never heard me say whether I am for or against the merger, and I will still not say. I will say that we need to get our ducks in a row. We need to fund the council and put a proper strategy in place. I live in Portumna and when this strategy was being drawn up, I asked if they could put us in with North Tipperary because we would be far better off. Galway is made up of three counties in one. There is the east, the west and the city. We are poles apart. What Deputies Ó Cúiv and Connolly talk about is totally different from what I experience in Portumna, Gort, Athenry and Tuam. Having us all under the one remit scares the living dickens out of councillors, such as Ivan Canning in Portumna. He reckons no money will ever make it to Portumna. He is probably right. I am not going to rule that out, however. I keep saying to the Minister of State that I have an open mind on the whole concept. Unless I see funding going to councillors and unless we start with the money, I will have a serious reservation on it. I will doubledown until I see a commitment on money.

My last request is to take Galway out of the Bill and give it its own entity and allow us to have a proper debate in the Chamber. I want to work with the Minister of State, not against him.

I thank the Chairman. I will keep this brief because apart from being a Rossy, there is no point in repeating everything that has been said. However, I represent a Roscommon-Galway constituency. I agree with everything that has been said by Deputes Ó Cúiv, Connolly, Grealish and Rabbitte. The reality is that Galway city and county are fantastic. They have fantastic communities and fantastic identities. What has been going on for years is dragging down the city and the county. Within months of being elected in 2016, the issue of how bad the finances were was brought to my attention by a number of councillors and I attended a number of meetings. We really need to get this right, as the other speakers have said, and we need a proper discussion.

Ballinalsoe is less than 40 minutes on a motorway from Galway city. It feels so left out. We could make this fantastic. There could be so much more done with Ballinalsoe. Galway city is bursting at the seams in so many areas and yet one has these great communities who want more in their area. They are prepared to work for it and with their politicians to make it happen.

I would really like for us to have a proper discussion and not rush this through. I can assure members that if it is rushed through, it will not work. We will have problem after problem in the city and county if we get it wrong. Now is the time to get it right. We need to give it time and to do the right thing.

I will get my gumshield as I grind my teeth.

He will be doing a lot of grinding now.

I have to be conscious of that.

I will try to address the issues raised by the members as much as I can. Deputy Ó Broin expressed the concerns of the Sinn Féin councillors in Galway and the view that public engagement had not been as deep as it might have been and that in Cork, which is a substantive subject of this legislation, there is peace and harmony.

I would not go that far now.

I want to put the timeline on it in that when we were at the stage where we are now in Galway in Cork, there was no peace or harmony. There was no one in support of it. The city councillors wished to extend the boundary. The county councillors were, and remain, completely of a different view. The same goes for Oireachtas Members. It has been a process that has gone over a number of years.

There is nothing rushed about this section which talks about the appointment of a joint chief executive. The process in question in Galway has been going on for about four years. The process has not been rushed.

I acknowledge what numerous contributors said about Galway having its own Bill. Galway should, and will, have its own Bill in the new year. The 2019 local government Bill will be a reverse of this. It will be principally about Galway. There will be other local government matters, including the urban areas committees, if we do not reach agreement on them, contained in it. Local government Bills tend to be like that. The reason this section is included is that in the areas where mergers have happened - for example, in Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary - the first thing that happened was the appointment of a joint chief executive. I will point out that in Galway until the mid-1980s, there was one county or city manager for the two positions. It is still the case in some local authorities that people are covering two different areas. In and of itself, having a joint manager is not a merger. It is, however, a stepping stone on the road towards a merger. I am not going to deny that.

I will return to the chronological order in which questions were asked. Deputy Ó Cúiv said that the financial resources must be resolved prior to merger and I am not resiling from that at all. We need to resolve them prior to merger.

I will go into some detail about extra resources. The Deputy is correct that a lot would have been provided in the event of a merger. Following on from the meetings that have taken place with Galway Members and Deputies Darragh O'Brien and Ó Broin, I reiterate that there will be additional funding built in for the county council which historically was the fourth or fifth most underfunded council in the country. From the start 18 months ago when I was appointed to this position, Galway councillors were lobbying me. I do not accept for one minute that I have not engaged, although I have not gone to Galway. Deputy Grealish should note that well in advance of the Galway Bill I will have a full exchange with Galway city and county representatives. That is the right approach to adopt. I understand it did not happen in the case of other mergers, but it is actually the right thing to do and I have no problem in doing it. I have had plenty of engagement with the Oireachtas Members and councillors, formally and informally, in the past 18 months. I will not be withdrawing the section because what we are dealing with is not the Galway merger per se. It is a stepping stone on the road to it and I am not denying or seeking to move away from it. I agree absolutely that the issue of finance has to be resolved and that a roadmap towards permanent resolution has to be in place before the nitty gritty of a merger can be dealt with.

I was struck by Deputy Grealish's comments. I was not in my current position and was in a position like that of the Deputy when the council mergers happened in other areas. There is no necessity for the two councils, the two chambers, to merge. I am familiar with the position in one of the boroughs in London, Richmond upon Thames. South London-----

That is codology.

The legal decision-----

I am outlining that it is a matter to be dealt with in the Galway Bill. One can merge the management structures, but one does not have to have only one council. That is what was done in-----

How then would one agree a budget?

There would be two separate budgets. There would be two parts to it.

Why go ahead with the merger then?

I am saying it is one of the options. I am not trying to open it up to too much toing and froing. If I had been making the mergers when they happened a number of years ago, I believe there would have been a certain logic to having what I am talking about, particularly because of the historical factor.

Deputy Grealish raised with me before the position of mayor of Galway city. I believe we can accommodate it, notwithstanding the fact that there is going to be a plebiscite to have a directly elected head of the local authority. There is, however, a civic function for the city mayor. When the Bill is put in place, I hope we will be in a position to fully incorporate it.

On Deputy Connolly's comments, I do not think I put myself right the other evening. Although I have lived in a city for six or seven years, I come from a part of Kilkenny with a more sparse population than the wildest part of west Galway. There are 20,000 acres of State forestry at the back of my home. It is a really rural place. Despite the fact that Kilkenny is in the east, people believe it is lovely and has a huge population. There are parts of every county with a sparse population.

The Deputy is correct that rural areas do not need cities to survive or develop, but that is not the point I was trying to make yesterday. The point I was trying to make was that when the local government structure was established under the Local Government Act 1898, the interdependence of Ballinasloe and the area to Clifden was not what it is today. There were some people from Clifden who might never have been in Ballinasloe. That was the Ireland of 120 years ago. It is a fact, notwithstanding that the towns might have been in the one county. Now the world of business and politics has changed. I am very familiar with Ballinasloe. Part of the influence is the change in people’s behaviour in terms of retail and employment. As jobs have moved and people’s purchasing has moved out of the town of Ballinasloe, a trend is evident that is seen all over the country, but that does not mean that we cannot have new strategies or development plans for the rejuvenation of towns such as Ballinasloe. It has happened in other parts. The deadest town in my county in my lifetime has been Castlecomer. The coal mines closed in the 1960s. The late Jim Gibbons delivered mills for textile manufacturing, but they closed about 20 years ago. There was nothing in the place. Through a combination of the local authority, private enterprise and a few local leaders, the town of Castlecomer has been completely transformed. The biggest visitor centre that is not an historical monument in the south east is Castlecomer Discovery Park on the edge of the town. The physical appearance of the town has been improved greatly with grants from what would have been Deputy Ó Cuív’s Department in the past, the Department of Rural and Community Affairs, at which the Minister is Deputy Ring. We cannot freeze the towns in aspic in the belief that what worked in the past will work in the future. This is about trying to understand-----

The Minister of State has been a little disingenuous.

A number of members have indicated that they wish to contribute again. We are pressed for time.

That comment cannot be let pass. One does not need a big local authority to undo Ballinasloe-----

We always abide by the order here.

That is okay. I just could not let it go.

I have had some detailed discussions on this issue. One will see from my colleagues in Galway that there are genuine concerns, particularly about funding. The historical issues are well known. The issues in Galway deserve a full and proper debate. We will have a separate Bill on any future merger and my party will reserve its position on it until it is published. I ask the Minister of State to engage more directly and intensively with the Deputies from Galway, from all parties and none, on their specific concerns, particularly about funding which is the fundamental issue. There are synergies to be achieved, but we will wait to see the Bill on the merger. At this stage, what we are talking about is the chief executive function and there being one chief executive. We are not discussing the merger of the authorities in Galway. When we do, we will certainly be considering the matter in great detail. As he knows, I have approached the Minister of State on the issue of funding. He has given some additional funds and made some commitments, but I ask him to engage with other Members. I will continue to engage with him on behalf of Fianna Fáil to make sure Galway receives its fair share and is afforded redress.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. He is probably not surprised that it does not answer my particular concerns. I will certainly be formally opposing the section. We have only 20 minutes left and want to get through all of the Bill. It is not that I want to stop anyone from having a discussion, but I would prefer us to move to the formal votes. I say to those who are not members of the committee that we are really keen to have the Bill finished today. I will certainly be calling for a vote in opposition to the section, but I ask the Members from Galway, to whom I know that this issue is very important, to allow the committee to proceed with the rest of the business because we have to give up the room in 20 minutes.

The committee may work away.

We have not heard what the funding commitment will be. As the Minister of State is aware, Galway County Council deferred its budget meeting until next Monday to see what the outcome of this discussion would be. We have heard nothing from the Minister of State on funding. We will be going back to Galway this afternoon with nothing to report to those concerned.

I am interested in sitting down with the Minister of State to talk to him about the status quo in the 1980s when there was one manager and two chambers. I am open-minded on the idea, although I am not saying I will agree to it, but I still believe we should have a separate Bill and withdraw this one.

The Minister of State talked about a process. The second interim report was issued on 26 April 2018. After it was issued we, as public representatives, were invited to a briefing rather than a consultation and were told that this is it and that we would have no input. Furthermore, it gives the game away in one important national aspect. There is talk about bringing the industrial agencies together for a consultation but, extraordinarily, Údarás na Gaeltachta was not even mentioned. That shows that the mindset is that the rest is what is called hinterland.

I must ask Deputy Ó Cuív for his forbearance here. If we proceed to a vote, we can continue this conversation after the meeting. Otherwise we will not have time to get the votes done.

In that case, I will ask one question of the Minister of State. I understand that he got a document containing two main points. The second point is set out in a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h and i format.

I was told that I would get it but I have not received it yet.

I ask the Minister of State to check because I was told-----

Could I have what Deputy Ó Cuív has?

It would be great if Deputy Ó Cuív could facilitate this because we have spent the best part of ten hours on this already. We need to press ahead with this vote. I have no problem with allowing the discussion to continue on after the meeting.

Maybe we could avoid a vote if-----

The members of the committee have asked that we proceed to put the amendment. I have to respect the wishes of the members.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 116:

In page 26, line 6, to delete “by”.

Amendment put and declared carried

I move amendment No. 117:

In page 26, line 8, to delete “and” where it secondly occurs.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 118:

In page 26, line 9, to delete “in Chapter 2 of Part 14, by”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 119:

In page 27, line 14, to delete “applies” and substitute “applies,”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 120:

In page 27, line 15, after “subsection (1)” to insert “of section 145”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 121:

In page 27, line 16, after “and (5)” to insert “of that section”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 122:

In page 27, lines 17 and 18, to delete “of section 145 shall not apply to the chief executive of the Galway local authorities appointed” and substitute “shall not apply to the appointment of the chief executive of the Galway local authorities”.

Amendment put and declared carried

I move amendment No. 123:

In page 27, line 35, to delete “Galway.”.” and substitute the following:

“Galway.”, and

(c) the substitution, in subsection (1) of section 145, of the following paragraph for paragraph (a):

“(a) the appointment—

(i) by a county council, city council or a city and county council of a chief executive, or

(ii) by the council specified by order under subsection (6) of section 144A of the chief executive of the Galway local authorities within the meaning of that section,

under section 6 of the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees)Act 1926 (in this section referred to as the ‘Act of 1926’) by virtue of a recommendation of the Chief Executive of the Public Appointments Service, and”.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Question proposed: "That section 32, as amended, stand part of Bill."

Before dealing with the section, I wish to highlight that two technical amendments to correct grammatical errors will be needed on Report Stage. I draw this to the attention of the committee now to avoid potential conflict later. Subsection (4) of section 3 dealing with regulations should be subject to the section that enables plebiscite regulations to be made, which was passed by the committee last night as amendment No. 106. I would like to bring forward an amendment to that effect on Report Stage. I will also bring forward an amendment on Report Stage to subsection (7) of the new section dealing with the annual contribution by the city council to the county council, inserted by amendment No. 71, in the context of Cork. It is a drafting amendment to change the last word in the provision from section to subsection.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 1.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • Phelan, John Paul.

Níl

  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
Question declared carried.
NEW SECTIONS

I move amendment No. 124:

In page 27, after line 35, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 32 of Official Languages Act 2003

33. (1) Section 32 of the Official Languages Act 2003 is amended—

(a) in the Irish text, by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (2):

“(2) Ní dhéanfaidh an tAire ordú faoin alt seo i leith áit lena mbaineann ordú faoi fho-alt (3) d’alt 192 (a cuireadh isteach le halt 48 den Acht Comhshaoil (Forálacha Ilghnéitheacha), 2011) den Acht Rialtais Áitiúil, 2001.”,

and

(b) in the English text, by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (2):

“(2) The Minister shall not make an order under this section in respect of a place to which an order under subsection (3) of section 192 (inserted by section 48 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011) of the Local Government Act 2001 applies.”.

(2) Section 49 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 is repealed.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 125:

In page 27, after line 35, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Building Control Act 2007

34. The Building Control Act 2007 is amended—

(a) in paragraph (a) of the definition of registration body in subsection (1) of section 2, by the substitution of “Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland” for “Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland”, and

(b) in subsection (1) of section 13, by the substitution of “Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland” for “Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland”.”.

Amendment agreed to.
SCHEDULE

Amendment No. 126 in the names of Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 126 not moved.
Question, "That the Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill," put and declared carried.
TITLE

Amendments Nos. 127 and 128 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 127:

In page 5, line 6, to delete “to provide” and substitute the following:

“to provide for the holding of plebiscites by certain local authorities on the question as to whether or not the cathaoirligh of those local authorities should be elected to such positions by the electors of the administrative areas of those local authorities and the question as to whether or not certain functions of the chief executives of those local authorities should be transferred to those cathaoirligh; to provide for the making of local area plans under the Planning and Development Act 2000 in relation to certain urban areas by committees appointed for that purpose; to provide”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 128:

In page 5, lines 9 to 11, to delete all words from and including “for” in line 9 down to and including “2001” in line 11 and substitute the following:

“for those and other purposes to amend the Local Government Act 1991, the Local Government Act 2001, the Valuation Act 2001, the Official Languages Act 2003 and certain other enactments”.

Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

I thank the Minister of State, his officials and all the members for their attendance today, especially for being so amenable and flexible to proceed.

.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: I want the Minister of State to take the following points back to the Department. He will see from the discussion that all members have been constructive, responsible and reasonable in their approach. When he talks to his colleagues, and specifically the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, I ask him to tell them to look at some of the Opposition legislation that has passed Second Stage. The Opposition has been co-operative, reasonable and responsible-----

-----in trying to advance other legislation that we have. The credits have increased on one side but they have not increased on the other side. I welcome today's engagement and the openness demonstrated by the Minister of State and his officials today. Such openness is a good thing but it has not been reciprocated enough.

I wish to advise members that we will discuss the Supplementary Estimates for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government at our next meeting.