This Bill deals with the tenure arrange ments for local authority managers. Section 1, the only substantive section in the Bill, provides for an amendment to the Local Government Act, 1991, in order to modify the current arrangements. At present, the maximum term of a local authority county or city manager is seven years. This Bill provides an option for managers to extend that contract period for a further three years to a maximum of ten years in total. The tenure arrangements now being introduced are in line with the ten year term recommended by the Barrington report and the policy in the institutes of technology where the directors are now offered ten year appointments.
Fixed tenure arrangements for local authority managers were first introduced in 1991. Section 47 of the Local Government Act, 1991, allowed the Minister to introduce such arrangements by way of an order laid before both Houses. An order providing for a standard fixed term of seven years and for interim transitional arrangements was made in 1991. Managers are entitled to apply for other manager posts, and many of them do, in the same way as other local authority officials may apply for posts in other local authorities. There are obvious benefits to a system of open competitive mobility and it provides a readily accessible pool of experience from which local authorities can draw on the basis of merit.
There are many reasons managers apply for other posts, such as preferred location or higher pay. However, the principal reason managers apply for other manager posts during their contract period is to ensure continued employment. In order to ensure they will have a new appointment before the present term expires, the trend is for managers to start looking for new posts after approximately four or five years' service. It seems that the introduction of the seven year tenure has had the unintended effect of managers vacating their existing posts prematurely, which has given rise to instability in local authority management. This is not in the best interests of efficient and effective local government. At the most senior level of manager, a certain level of stability is essential.
The fundamental problem would seem to be that the contract periods are currently too short. A seven year contract with an option to extend by three years giving a maximum total of ten years, as proposed, is intended to address this difficulty and, subject to the relevant requirements, will be open to serving managers whose contracts would otherwise expire.
I will now discuss the provisions of the Bill in more detail. Section 1 provides for the new arrangements to be introduced by regulations in the same way as the original seven year term was introduced. Such regulations will be required to be laid before both Houses and are subject to annulment by resolution of either.
The new tenure regime will provide as follows: the basic seven year contract will continue to stand as at present; managers will, however, have the option to extend this by three years, giving a total maximum of ten years; a maximum retirement age of 65 will apply in all cases; the extension option will have to be exercised by the person concerned giving notification to the cathaoirleach within a period, the notification period, to be prescribed in the regulations; a different notification period may be specified for a transitional phase following the introduction of the new arrangements; the standard notification period for the exercise of the extension option will be specified in the regulations as the fifth year of service within the seven year tenure; the cathaoirleach must notify the members of the local authority, the Local Appointments Com mission and the Minister when given notification; where a person gives notification he or she is precluded from applying for a manager post until six months before the expiry of his or her extended term of office and the LAC is precluded from considering any application made within that excluded period; the regulations can, however, specify manager posts to which this prohibition will not apply, for example, Dublin city and Cork County, to ensure a sufficiency of suitable candidates for these top posts.
I remind Members of the Seanad that the comprehensive Local Government Bill, 2000, which was presented to the other House last month and provides for the consolidation and modernisation of local government law as well as introducing a range of reforms, will provide plenty of opportunity to this House for the consideration of all aspects of the local government code affecting councils, managers and related matters. This Bill aims to address a specific but important issue which has given rise to difficulty. I commend it to the House on that basis.