I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 56, 69 and 74 together.
The Government’s broad policy approach in this area was set out in the programme for Government. In line with this, I intend to publish shortly a detailed policy statement and action programme for the reform of local government. The programme will set out a clear vision for the future of local government and proposals to achieve it, with particular focus on strengthening structures generally at regional, county and sub-county levels, expanding the role of local government, maximising operational and organisational efficiency and improving governance, oversight, local political and executive leadership and citizen engagement.
The reform programme will also reflect other work under way in regard to various aspects of local government, including local authority mergers, efficiency implementation, local government funding and alignment of local and community development with local government. The statement will outline implementation arrangements for the reform programme and certain issues which will be the subject of further policy work in the future.
Work on the development of these policy proposals has been informed by the extensive analysis and consultation that has taken place in regard to reform over the years. In recent times, I have received submissions from, and held discussions with, the local government representative associations, with individual local authority members and with interested groups. Some months ago, I also invited each individual councillor in the country to submit views to me on a number of issues relating to local government reform.
Publication of the policy statement will provide a further opportunity for public comment and input ahead of the development of legislation to provide for these reform measures and this legislation will be brought forward in 2013, in time for the local elections in 2014. The content of local government reform legislation will be a matter for Government decision in the first instance and will, of course, be the subject of Oireachtas scrutiny and debate in the normal way. In due course, I will be letting the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht know the exact details of this legislation and of the implementation of our policy statement.