These amendments concern the role and powers of the Dublin regional authority which is to be established by order under section 43 of the Local Government Act, 1991. I hope to do that so the authorities can be established on 1 January 1994. The only problem my officials and I had in relation to all the activities in this reorganisational process is that the same people have to complete this as well as other work. We are anxious to process that work, although a considerable amount has been done already. I look forward to fulfilling the promise I made this evening in that regard.
While the emphasis of the debate has been on a regulatory or an overseeing type of regional authority, I would like it to have a broader role, although one cannot make an order to that effect. In addition to bringing people together to do something, it should have a vision as to where these processes will lead the county and city and should work towards that.
These amendments are premature. They anticipate the precise role which will be conferred on the regional authority provided for in the 1991 Act and one way or another expand that role in a particular way. Co-ordinating regional authorities was first recommended in the report of the independent Barrington committee. This was provided for by the Oireachtas in the 1991 Act and specifically endorsed in the Dublin reorganisation report as the appropriate arena for co-ordination of services in the Dublin area.
As I said, the precise role of the new regional authorities will be spelled out shortly. It would not be appropriate to confer on the Dublin regional authority the powers vested in the former Dublin Transport Authority as these go beyond co-ordination and, therefore, beyond the role recommeded in the Barrington report and what was provided for in the 1991 Act. I would not be in favour of extending the role of the Dublin regional authority by way of ministerial regulation. Indeed, I am surprised Deputy Doyle wishes to vest such powers in the Minister for the Environment. Most of the Deputy's contribution in relation to additional powers for the Minister were the opposite to this. The specific service areas such as housing, sewage, etc., listed by the amendment are matters to be encompassed by the co-ordinating role of the Dublin regional authority. I do not believe they are necessary because the powers vested in me by section 43 of the 1991 Act are broad enough to allow the order to provide the necessary co-ordination in all these areas.
The underlying assumption behind these amendments is that the powers in the Bill to ensure co-ordination of services, with the powers in the 1991 Act, are defective or unlikely to work satisfactorily. That is not the case and I hope to prove it. To go beyond a co-ordinating role for the regional authorites would inevitably mean removing powers currently vested in local authorities. The thrust of local government reform is to build up the role of local authorities. I would be reluctant to move in tbis direction, except as a last resort.
There is uneasiness in relation to the regional authorities and we must clarify the position in this regard. It has been my ambition, since becoming Minister for the Environment, to give as much power as possible to those at local level. Regarding the regional authorities, I will not divest some of the authority as outlined in the amendment, although I am not saying I fully understand it. I am satisfied these amendments are neither necessary or desirable and that a satisfactory level of co-ordination can be achieved using the powers provided for in the Bill and in the 1991 Act.
There will be four principal authorities in the Dublin area, three new county councils and Dublin Corporation. To ensure proper co-ordination between the local authorities on an ongoing basis and in a properly structured manner, section 32 of the Bill requires their managers to put in place appropriate procedures for consultation and co-operation. These will involve consultation and co-operation at official level, regular meetings and other practical arrangements worked out locally to ensure the new statutory duties introduced by the Bill are complied with. In this regard, the Bill imposes a statutory duty on local authorities in performing their functions to have regard to the metropolitan interest, at official or elected member level. By virtue of section 32, in performing any statutory function which may have an impact on the metropolitan area in relation to waste disposal, roads, a major planning application, etc., the relevant local authority must take into account the metropolitan interest. This is designed to ensure local authorites do not operate in isolation and without reference to the overall Dublin area.
The regional authorities will be in a position to formulate a regional framework which will form a necessary backdrop for local authority operations to be undertaken with reference to the metropolitan interest. Their role will be to promote the co-ordination of public services generally in the regions, including local authority services. Dublin city and the three new counties will constitute the Dublin region. The regional authorities will have an important contribution to make to national development by promoting co-ordination and co-operation among the various agencies responsible for the provision of public services, including local authorities.
The new authorities will be well placed to view local problems, needs and priorities from the broader regional perspective. They will also provide a regional focus and voice where they are lacking at present. One aspect of the regional authorities' role which will be of immense significance is the fact that these areas will be used for the purpose of EC Structural and Cohesion Funds. They will be responsible for monitoring and devising the implementation of the operational programmes at regional level and making recommendations to programme monitoring committees. Specific provisions regarding the powers, functions and other details pertaining to the regional authorities will be set out in an order which is being prepared and its drafting will be completed as soon as possible.
Section 32 of the Bill specifically requires individual local authorities to have regard to any report, submission or joint submission made by the Dublin or Mid East regional authority. In this regard, I expect both authorities to work closely with a view to devising an appropriate frame work for Dublin and the surrounding areas. Taken together, the provision of the Bill and the operation of the regional authorities will ensure co-ordination on an ongoing basis and within the regional dimension. This will apply in relation to local authority services and functions affecting the entire Dublin area including the review and co-ordination of development plans.
I have been long-winded in relation to this matter, but it was raised by Deputy Doyle on Second Stage and I did not have the opportunity to reply. I believe it required this kind of treatment so that we could reach a consensus as to where this regional dimension will take us. On one hand, we have the maximum power vested at local level and on the other the broader regional power which would not take powers from locally elected members but would at official level, with the provision in section 32, give us the best type of co-ordination which would ensure that some of the problems outlined would not exist.
It is fair to say that we should have reached the stage before now where the question of meetings between local authorities should not require the backing of law. However, that is the reality and we are dealing with it in as comprehensive a way as we can. I look forward to the success of these authorities. As we complete the work on the preparation of that order I will bear in mind, as far as possible, the type of contributions that have been made and have as realistic and as powerful a regional authority as is necessary without undermining the fundamental strengths of the local authority itself.