Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010: Committee Stage
I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, and his officials. We are due to sit until 1.30 p.m. when we will suspend the meeting until 5.15 p.m. with a view to continuing until 8.30 p.m. Due to the size of the Bill and the large number of amendments, we have reserved a further time slot tomorrow from 10 a.m. if required. The meeting will probably be interrupted by divisions and the Chamber takes precedence. Is that provisional timetable agreed? Agreed.
On behalf of the committee I acknowledge, with thanks, the revised explanatory memorandum we received. There are 106 amendments in the name of the Minister which are significant and substantial amendments to the Bill as read on Second Stage. When dealing with the planning legislation earlier this year the committee was in a difficult position with substantial amendments and, in truth, the members did not fully understand or had not received a briefing or information note on them. Arising from that and our contact with the Ceann Comhairle, Standing Orders have been amended to provide that where there are substantial amendments on Committee or later Stages, a revised explanatory memorandum should be issued for the assistance of members. We all received that and are very grateful for it. This represents good practice. The explanatory memorandum relating to the amendments will probably speed up our consideration of the legislation because members will not be obliged to inquire of the Minister with regard to what particular amendments involve. However, as there is no guillotine, the length of these proceedings will depend on the number of matters members wish to tease out.
The grouping schedule relating to the amendments has been circulated. This schedule is for discussion purposes only and amendments must be disposed of individually and in sequential order.
Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 86, 87 and 89 are related, amendment No. 88 is related and is an alternative to amendment No. 87, and amendment No. 90 is related and is an alternative to amendment No. 89. Therefore, amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 86 to 90, inclusive, will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 11, subsection (2), line 29, after "days" to insert the following:
"not earlier than 2 years from the passing of this Act".
I intend to refer to amendments Nos. 1 and 90. Amendment No. 90 is designed to ensure that a by-election would take place not later than 90 days after a vacancy arises. It inserts a time limit in respect of the holding of by-elections in respect of the mayoralty.
Amendment No. 1 is the most substantive measure to which the select committee will be giving consideration during these proceedings. On Second Stage, I spoke at length with regard to why this amendment should be taken on board. It proposes that the coming into operation of the legislation be suspended for a period of not greater than two years. The thinking in this regard is obvious. When questioned previously with regard to the legislation, the Minister indicated that it would be introduced in conjunction with a White Paper on local government. The latter is yet to appear. It is likely that the legislation will be forced through the Houses by the Government but that the White Paper will not be immediately forthcoming. It is critical that the reform of the structures of government, whether at national or local level, should be pursued in line with some form of roadmap. In the absence of a White Paper, there is no such roadmap. Basically, the Minister has decided upon the destination but the map we will use to reach it has yet to be put in place.
The intention of creating a directly elected mayor for Dublin is positive in nature. However, the legislation before the select committee is lacking any real concrete proposals regarding the Minister's intent in this regard. There is a difference between coming up with a good idea and introducing good legislation. What we have been presented with is not good legislation. As the Chairman stated earlier, the list of amendments is some 28 pages long. The greater proportion of those amendments have been tabled by the Minister. This illustrates the fact that the Bill is far from being the finished article. On that basis, amendment No. 1 proposes that the coming into operation of the legislation be suspended for a period of two years in order that the deficiencies and other matters relating to it might be dealt with in the interim.
I will wait for the Minister to comment before discussing the amendments tabled in my name.
I thank members for the amendments they tabled. I hope we can have a productive discussion around those amendments. I have always been minded to accept amendments, where possible. As members are aware, difficulties sometimes arise in the context of accepting amendments on the floor of the House or in committee. However, it is possible to accept the spirit of an amendment on Committee Stage and introduce an alternative on Report Stage. I will indicate to the Chairman the amendments in respect of which I propose to do the latter. Some of the amendments tabled by Opposition members certainly make sense.
I am extremely proud of this legislation, which is badly needed. I hope that it will be seen as part of an evolutionary process in respect of local government. I accept the points made by Deputy Ciarán Lynch regarding the publication of the White Paper which will be published. I indicated this in the Dáil in reply to parliamentary questions tabled by either the Deputy or his colleague, Deputy Tuffy. I certainly recall stating that the White Paper will be published prior to Christmas. That has always been and remains my intention.
The legislation before the select committee represents the first step in real reform of local government. There has been a great deal of discussion with regard to the reform of local government and to decentralisation, which involves returning power to the regions.
It is about moving people out.
For me, decentralisation does not involve moving civil servants to locations throughout the country. That has never been my understanding of decentralisation. I am of the view that decentralisation involves changing the locus of power. That is what we are doing in this Bill. We are empowering a mayor of Dublin who will be directly elected by the people. I was previously Lord Mayor of this city and it was an honour to serve in that position. Since that time, it has always been my intention to introduce legislation such as that before the select committee.
The amendments I have tabled are technical in nature. I and my officials are of the view that they will improve the legislation. It was not the case that we suddenly discovered loopholes or whatever and that amendments were subsequently drafted to plug these. What we are about is ensuring that the legislation will be at its most robust.
The central point made by Deputy Ciarán Lynch - one of Deputy Hogan's amendments also relates to this matter - is that we should postpone the holding of the election for mayor. I am concerned that if we did so, the legislation would be dumped. As a result the very hard work that has been done by my officials, for which I thank them, will come to naught. That would be an extremely regrettable development. In my view, we have the opportunity to hold a mayoral election and that someone will occupy the position of mayor until 2014. I accept that it is a new concept but between now and 2014 we will have the opportunity to bed down the legislation and ensure that everything which is required will be put in place.
As members are aware, the legislation makes provision for the mayor to conduct a review. I am certain, and am modest enough to admit, that the mayor will discover certain aspects in respect of which change will be required. Identifying those aspects will come about on foot of practical experience. My successor will have the opportunity to engage with the mayor in the interests of improving the legislation. As already stated, the Bill is part of the evolutionary process which is designed to ensure that we will have better local government in this city and throughout the country.
Postponing the coming into operation of the legislation would not solve anything. What we need to do is to get on with it. There has already been enough postponing and prevarication in this country and previous proposals for a directly elected mayor were shelved. I do not believe we should shelve the proposals contained in this legislation. As members are aware, I have engaged with some of the major stakeholders in respect of this legislation. If members were to consult the Dublin Chamber of Commerce-----
I spoke to its representatives.
-----they would be aware that it has been calling for a directly elected mayor for ten years and that it wants us to move in this direction. Representatives from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce spoke to me in respect of the introduction of further amendments. I took on board much of what they had to say and incorporated some of their ideas in the amendments tabled in my name. That is the way we should proceed and a further postponement would not serve a useful purpose.
Fine Gael has no difficulty with the principle of having a directly elected mayor of Dublin but the timing is bizarre and the scope of the Bill does not reflect the Minister's lofty statements. At a time that the national finances and businesses and citizens in Dublin are under severe pressure, the Government parties are insisting on establishing an expensive, powerless position to be paid for through tax increases or additional household charges. At the same time, the powers the Bill gives the mayor are limited. I would have much preferred proper devolution of power from the centre to local government and the publication of the Minister's White Paper, which he promised would be published at the end of 2008. He said earlier he would publish it next week. He should have published it before we scrutinised this important legislation, which is part of his agenda. It is not fair to the committee that the document remains unpublished while we discuss what probably will be a serious element of it.
Despite promises, the position of mayor does not have powers regarding the day to day running of public transport in Dublin or transport policy in general. The mayor will sit in an advisory capacity on the National Transport Authority. He or she will have no power over the budgets of the Dublin local authorities or a role in housing policy. With regard to planning, waste and water policy, the balance of power will rest with the regional or local authority, not with the mayor. Essentially, these bodies will set out the regional plans for these policy areas with the mayor limited to overseeing the drafting and consultation on these plans. When it comes to the final plans, he or she will only have the power to remove items from plans that are inconsistent with existing policy. I expected, if this position was to change the face of Dublin forever in terms of local government that he or she would have significant additional powers from those the Minister got through Cabinet. I also expected that the Minister would start giving councillors more power to devolve more power from the centre to local government. Rather than a top down approach, the Minister has adopted a bottom up approach to power. We would have expected to find such information in the White Paper.
To get over all those issues and to reflect on the fact that IMF and the ECB officials are in the country, we have to make choices and help people through priority issues rather than through a project such as this that can wait for a few years. If the Minster proceeds with establishing the office, it will be out of synch with the local government election cycle. There is no reason we could not provide for more powers for the lord mayor's office, a better local government system and a rationalisation of the local authority system in Dublin where there are 133 councillors on the four local authorities. I have heard nothing about what the Minister will do about them in advance of creating this position. The reason Deputy Lynch and I have tabled these amendments is to postpone the commencement of the legislation until a more appropriate date in two or three years to get the local government system in Dublin right, to ensure the citizen does not have to pay for a project that is not essential and to ensure a position is not created in line with the Bill's provisions, which is powerless.
I am afraid talk is cheap. I am the Minister who has presided over the introduction of new funding mechanisms for local authorities, namely water rates, which have been foolishly abandoned along with the tax on second homes, something that was badly needed, and we are going further by proposing a site value tax as well. This is real local government reform. Fine Gael talked about it but it never implemented it.
We had rates on houses previously.
It is easy to talk about this, that and the other.
The Minister is getting annoyed.
It is easy to say this is a powerless position. It is a more powerful position than the current office of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The Deputy would at least have to accept that. The legislation goes much further because the power rests with the mayor to give directions and that should be welcomed. I do not expect the Opposition parties to be effusive in their praise but I ask them to, on occasion, recognise that more progress has been made in the reform of local government than previously and this is one example of that. Opposition members are seeking to denigrate this position by saying somehow it will cost a great deal of money, which it will not.
I have outlined the figures in this regard. I have given all the information.
It will cost more than €10 million annually.
We can have a ding dong here or we can try to be constructive. I have attended the committee to discuss the amendments but Deputy Hogan has made a Second Stage contribution again.
I would like the Minister to withdraw that remark. I spoke to the amendment I tabled and I gave the reasons for it. Deputy Fleming should chair the meeting, not the Minister.
Allow the Minister to reply.
The Deputy mentioned the IMF and other issues-----
But the IMF officials are here.
-----which have nothing to do with this legislation.
More than 400,000 people are unemployed in this country.
The Deputy should address his remarks through the Chair. The Minister is in possession.
The proposal in the amendments to postpone the election is not tenable. It does not make sense for reasons I have outlined previously. We have an opportunity to go through the process of electing a mayor now and if there are outstanding difficulties, a review process is provided for in the legislation. This is a new departure for Dublin city, and it is badly needed. Cities and regions that thrive have a directly elected mayor at their helm. All the evidence points to this and that is why the legislation has the support of those in the business community who know how important it is. That is why they have supported our introduction of reform of the outdated funding mechanisms.
The Minister said talk is cheap and he is dead right. This Bill is not cheap. It is reckoned its implementation will cost between €5 million and €10 million. The funding will be provided by the local authorities and not a brass cent will be provided from the Department's budget, which demonstrates there will not be devolution in financial terms because devolution can be measured according to where the finances come from. Finances will come from the local authorities to the mayoral office and they will not travel down.
Deputy Hogan is right to make a Second Stage contribution, as am I, because when Second Stage was taken in the House, the Minister absented himself from the debate and he was not present when the two senior Opposition spokespersons made their contributions. He left the Chamber.
The Minister excused himself when Deputy Hogan and I gave our commentary on the legislation. Perhaps he read the transcript of what we said but he was not present to listen to what we had to say. Therefore, there is a requirement to repeat ourselves this morning. The Minister also commented on Chambers Ireland. I met representatives of Chambers Ireland and their position is clear. They wrote to me after the Second Stage debate to establish my position. They are keen to see a mayor of Dublin, as we all are. However, they are also of the view that the Bill contains shortcomings in respect of their ambition. To be honest, it falls short of the ambition which the Minister held initially. We are witnessing the worst type of political trade-off whereby the Minister gets the outcome but the content has been watered down as a compromise between the Minister and the other Government party. Deputy Hogan and I have proposed that the mayoral election should take place in conjunction with the next local election. There is potential for a situation where the mayoral election would take place on the day of the general election. It would be foolish were the Minister to provide for that.
We are in the greatest and most serious economic crisis the country has faced. There is no denying that. Other matters arise and the Bill is not fit for purpose. It will not achieve what the Minister set out to do. Comparisons made by the Minister and other members of the Green Party during the Second Stage debate to the effect that this is somewhat similar to the arrangements in New York and London are completely incorrect. They have executive mayors who run cities. This post would be parked between the Minister and the city and county managers. It is almost like a super-watchdog and the legislation does not create the reforms which we must have in local government.
Since the beginning of the State, local government has undergone a case of constructive dismissal. If local government was an employee, given the amount of powers and duties it has had removed by various Administrations over the years, it would have a case in court for constructive dismissal. This is a further exercise in constructive dismissal. Let us consider the funding that must come from local authorities to meet this role. Four local authorities must double what they pay already to the regional authority to meet this purpose. This will have an effect on frontline services, including those we have witnessed during recent weeks such as the people clearing snow off the streets and gritting roads. That is where the money for this post will come from. It will have an impact on frontline services. The Minister cannot state that what is taking place today is neutral in the real world. In fact, it will have a direct impact on the real world. It is a bureaucratic superstructure.
The Minster referred to the costs in reply to Deputy Hogan's comments but he has not yet nailed down a figure. I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister last week. The Minister referred me to some website. He would not indicate in the reply to my parliamentary question how much it would cost. One can dress something up as much as one wishes but if one puts a tuxedo on a slug, it is still a slug. This is what we are witnessing. The Minister can dress this up as much as he wishes but this is legislation with shortcomings. The political objective has not been met. It will not deliver or do what it is intended to do. It will not enhance the evolution of local government in this country. We have chased the Minister around the House. He admitted this morning that the White Paper on local government will be published next week. Perhaps it will but it may not be. I take the Minister's word for it but it is an admission that the Minister has not finalised in his mind the structure of local government in the White Paper since it is not ready this morning. This presents a difficulty with what we are discussing this morning.
The Green Party has had some good ideas in government and I have acknowledged as much. However, a consistent difficulty with the Green Party in government has been the transmission of a good idea into good legislation. We saw with the second home tax whereby Joe Duffy spent one and a half weeks debating the matter while it was being debated in the Seanad. Such issues as the taxation approach to mobile homes had to be changed. The matter was legislated through "Liveline". VRT tax was introduced in the middle of a year which brought suffering to the motor industry and brought it from its knees to the floor. Everyone knows-----
I am sorry, but that is not true.
I did not interrupt the Minister. Everyone knows the motor industry is at its best in January and February. The Minister made an announcement that he would change the taxation system in the middle of the year, which saw sales go through the floor during that period. There was a planning Bill which required an apology from the Tánaiste in the Chamber on the Order of Business because it was mishandled. The Chairman referred to the legacy of that in the introduction to the debate this morning. The list goes on. My favourite was the Bill brought before the committee by the Department. I had been in the House only a couple of months when a €5,000 fine for setting off a nuclear bomb in the country was proposed. That was probably the most ludicrous and humorous of all.
On a more serious note, what is being decided on will cost money. The Minister cannot deny it. This will have an impact on frontline services. The country is in an economic crisis. There is also a scheduling issue for the election of a mayor. I believe the best approach is to do it in conjunction with the next local elections. Ultimately, this does not represent reform of local government. The Minister can dress it up as he pleases, but it is not reform of local government. In fact, local authority members may see the further diminution of their powers under the proposed legislation.
As Deputy Lynch stated, it is like putting the cart before the horse. His comments make sense in that the White Paper on local government should come first. This is a vanity project by the Green Party. The mayor of Dublin would have no real powers. This has been stated widely in the media and elsewhere. Will the Minister indicate what role the mayor would have in the improvement of the transport situation in the city of Dublin? What role would the mayor have in waste disposal or the management of housing in the city? Will the office have any role in planning matters or in the provision of water services throughout the city? These are the issues people wish to see addressed in the city. Will the mayor of Dublin have a major role to play in these areas? Will the Minister elaborate on these matters? I envisage a position with real teeth for the development of our capital city.
I call on members to keep their remarks to the section or the amendment under discussion. Nothing in the sections or amendments under discussion today were referred to by the Deputy. This is Committee Stage. Everything the Deputy mentioned can be discussed when we come to the relevant sections in the legislation. The only matter for discussion at present is the date of the election and whether it will be postponed. That is the substance of the amendments. We will come to all the other issues in due course. Let us stick with the amendments.
Before we come to a decision, I want to know exactly what the role of the office will be.
That was the purpose of the Second Stage debate, which has taken place already. We are now on Committee Stage and discussing the relevant amendments.
We did not get answers from the Minister.
The Deputy may ask questions as we go through the legislation but we cannot jump from amendment No. 160 to No. 148 and backwards and forwards. We are dealing with the amendments in sequence and according to the agreed groupings.
The Minister wishes to respond.
I thank the Chairman for the clarification because we are discussing amendments. With respect to the Deputy, these matters are outlined in the legislation. The mayor has significant powers in the areas outlined. The mayor does not have powers in certain areas, such as education and policing. I have been up-front about this all along. However, there are significant powers in the areas outlined such as planning, which is of great importance to the citizens of the city, and with regard to transport. The mayor will sit on the relevant committee and have an influence on transport.
Sitting on a committee is different from having a role.
The mayor will chair the committee, as the Deputy is aware. Deputy Lynch raised a series of issues. He has gone through Green Party legislation of which I am proud. If one wishes to quibble with the tax on second residences, that is fine. I would have thought a socialist party would have introduced such legislation some time ago but it did not, whereas we did. Now the Deputy is quibbling about caravans and so on. Fair enough, the Deputy should go ahead. It was good legislation. Members in the Seanad said we would be lucky to collect €20 million. We have far exceeded that amount, and we did so in a short time. This was done because the method of payment was made easy, another issue queried in the Seanad. I call on the committee to go over the debate and examine all the hares raised at the time, none of which, it turned out, was of any significance. That is the fact.
Sitting suspended at 12.10 p.m. and resumed at 12.50 p.m.
Are we finished the discussion on this amendment? Is the amendment being pressed?
As there are fewer than 12 members present, under Standing Orders we are obliged to wait eight minutes or until a full membership is present before proceeding to take the division.
The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 7.
- Bannon, James.
- Hogan, Phil.
- Lynch, Ciarán.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- Tuffy, Joanna.
- Byrne, Thomas.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Gormley, John.
- O’Donoghue, John.
- O’Sullivan, Christy.
- Scanlon, Eamon.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 11, subsection (3), line 33, to delete "2009" and substitute "2007".
Will we discuss this amendment now?
All that is required is a brief response.
Are we talking about amendment No. 86? To which amendment does the Deputy refer?
The discussion has moved on. We will formally move amendments Nos. 86 and 89 when we come to them. Nobody chose to discuss them. We will move on to the next amendment, which is amendment No. 3. It has been moved by Deputy Lynch. I invite a response from the Minister.
We will get there eventually.
The amendment seeks to delete "2009" and substitute "2007". I said previously that I would be in a position to accept some amendments. I can accept the Labour Party proposal to make a technical correction to the collective citation in section 1(3). I intend to bring forward an official amendment for that purpose on Report Stage. Accordingly, I would ask that the Labour Party amendment be withdrawn.
Is it in order that the Minister can introduce the same amendment on Report Stage?
Yes. As the Deputy is aware, the Attorney General's office believes this is a better way of doing it. In the past where amendments are accepted on the floor they can sometimes unravel. I accept the amendment but I have to do it in that way. I ask the Deputy to accept my bona fides in that regard.
For the record, the Minister accepts that the amendment-----
-----is robust. He will not accept it from the Opposition despite his opening remarks.
On that basis, I know that if I press the amendment I will lose the vote which would make its consideration even more ironic. I will withdraw the amendment given that the Minister has accepted it is sound.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, "That section 1 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.
Amendments Nos. 4 to 11, inclusive, and 35 and 91 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 12, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
" "census report" means the most recent census report published by the Central Statistics Office setting out the final result of a census of population of the State (whether or not that is the most recent such census of population);".
Section 2 is a standard provision in legislation which sets out the definitions used in various parts of the Bill. The amendments we now propose to section 2 are all of a technical nature.
The purpose of amendment No. 4 is to provide a common definition in the Bill for the term "census report" which appears in two sections, namely, section 29 concerning the finance and accounts of the authority, and section 90 which provides for the expenses of the returning officer. The wording of the definition of "census report" is taken from section 29(4)(c).
The purpose of amendment No. 5 is to provide a common definition in the Bill for the term "local government area", based on the Local Government Act 2001. The term "local government area" appears in section 3, which defines the Dublin region and section 29, which provides for the finance and accounts of the authority. The amendment states that the term "local government area" shall be construed in accordance with section 10 of the Local Government Act 2001. Section 10 of the 2001 Act divides the State into local government areas to be known as counties and cities, and within the counties, towns.
The purpose of amendment No. 6 is to make a minor correction to refer to the Commissioners of Public Works. That deals with a point raised in a proposed amendment from the Labour Party which I have seen.
The purpose of amendment No. 7 is to make a minor correction by inserting the word "by" to standardise and give greater meaning to the list of companies which are defined as public authorities under the Bill. The purpose of amendment No. 8 is to make a minor correction to remove the word "by" to ensure that the text is compatible with amendment No. 7. The purpose of amendment No. 9 is to make a minor correction to remove the word "by" to ensure that the text is compatible with amendment No. 7. The purpose of amendment No. 10 is to make a minor correction to remove the word "by" to ensure compliance with amendment No. 7.
Amendment No. 11 is a purely technical amendment to section 3. Its purpose is to move the definition in the Bill for the term "local government area" to section 2 which provides for common definitions. It will therefore delete the definition of "local government area" from section 3.
Amendment No. 35 is a purely technical amendment to section 29. The purpose of amendment No. 35 is to move the definition in the Bill of the term "census report" from section 29 to section 2 which provides for common definitions of terms arising in various parts of the Bill and to therefore delete the definition of "census report" from section 29.
Amendment No. 91 is a technical change which removes the definition of "census report" from section 90 which concerns the expenses of the returning officer in a mayoral election. The term "census report" will be defined in section 2. Those are technical amendments and I hope they will be recognised as such.
Is that generally agreed? The Minister has indicated he is accepting Deputy Lynch's amendment No. 6 as a technical amendment. Will an amendment be tabled on Report Stage to that effect or is the proposed wording accepted?
We are in a position to accept Deputy Lynch's wording.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 12, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:
" "local government area" shall be construed in accordance with section 10 of the Act of 2001;".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 13, line 1, to delete "Commissioner" and substitute "Commissioners".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 13, line 6, to delete "held" and substitute "held by".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 13, line 7, to delete "by".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 13, line 8, to delete "by" where it firstly occurs.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 13, line 12, to delete "by".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 14, lines 12 to 13, to delete subsection (2).
Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 14, before section 5, but in Part 1, to insert the following new section:
5.—(1) The Minister may, by regulations, provide for any matter referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed.
(2) Without prejudice to any provision of this Act, regulations under this section may contain such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the regulations.
(3) Every regulation under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within the next 21 days on which that House sits after the regulation is laid before it, the regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.".
The purpose of the amendment is to insert a new section 5 into the Bill to provide for the making of regulations by the Minister under the Act and to provide a process by which the Houses of the Oireachtas may examine and annul such regulations. The effect of the section is that the Minister may make regulations on matters referred to in the Act as prescribed, or to be prescribed. The regulations may contain such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as the Minister considers necessary. These are standard-type provisions, similar for example to those contained in section 4 of the Local Government Act 2001.
The regulations made by the Minister must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by either House within 21 days.
Several sections refer to the powers of the Minister to prescribe by regulation. For example, under section 2, the Minister may prescribe by regulations that a body is a development agency within the meaning of the Act. Under section 71, the Minister may prescribe by regulations the conditions and restrictions on fund-raising activities for the purposes of providing financial assistance which apply to the authority.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 5 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 13 to 15, inclusive, and 63 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 14, subsection (1), line 32, after "with" to insert "each Dublin local authority and".
I intend to consider bringing forward an amendment on Report Stage to Part 2 Chapter 1 to make further provision for certain formal matters associated with the mayoral office such as the formal assumption or affirmation of statutory responsibilities by the mayor and formal execution of certain responsibilities, particularly to the mayor.
I will not accept amendment No. 13 which would place a specific obligation on the mayor to consult with each Dublin local authority in preparing the mayoral strategy statement. I have tabled an amendment which will require the mayor to carry out a general public consultation process in the preparation of the strategy. It will be open to local authorities, as well as other parties, to make submissions on the draft strategy. A specific requirement, therefore, to consult the local authorities is not necessary.
No, there is a world of difference between a general consultation process with the public and recognising the electoral position of elected members of local authorities. To equate them as being the same is not sufficient.
I support amendment No. 13. It is unreal for the Minister to ask the Oireachtas to pass legislation to create an office that will have an overarching impact on Dublin city and county and yet refuse to ensure local authorities are consulted on the mayoral strategy. It is just consultation. Is the Minister going to tell us in the White Paper on local government that he will abolish the four Dublin local authorities and replace them with a regional authority?
I have no intention of abolishing the four local authorities.
There will be public consultation on the mayoral strategy. The legislation ensures members of local authorities will be on the regional authority. The mayor will work closely with it on the strategy.
It is a question of getting the balance right. I am accused of creating an office that will have, to use Deputy Hogan's words, overarching powers.
I did not use the word "power". I spoke of an overarching role.
There is a strong link to the powers of the Minister as well. All of this has been taken into account and the consultation involved is adequate.
The Minister equates the mayor's relationship with the general public and that of the elected members of the local authorities as being the same. This is not acceptable.
Amendment put and declared lost.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 15, subsection (3), lines 4 to 6, to delete paragraph (b) and substitute the following:
"(b) specify the strategies and policies that the Mayor intends to pursue, and the measures that he or she intends to adopt, in furtherance of the general objectives of the Authority under this Act.”.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 15, lines 7 to 13, to delete subsection (4) and substitute the following:
"(4) The Mayor shall—
(a) before preparing a strategy statement—
(i) publish a notice in a newspaper circulating throughout the Greater Dublin Area of his or her intention to prepare a strategy statement,
(ii) consider any submissions received pursuant to that notice during the period specified in the notice for making submissions, and
(iii) consider any comments or observations of the Authority made in relation to the draft strategy statement at the meeting of the Authority referred to insubsection (6),
(b) in the preparation of that statement, have regard to the policies of the Government and resources available to the Dublin local authorities for the provision of public services within the Dublin Region.
(5) A notice undersubsection (4) shall contain a statement that any person may make submissions in relation to the preparation of the strategy statement concerned not later than 4 weeks from the publication of the notice.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 6, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 16, 17, 20 and 21 are cognate and amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are related. Amendments Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 15, subsection (1), line 25, to delete "for" and substitute "from".
This is a technical amendment.
Amendments Nos. 16, 17, 20 and 21 are not regarded as appropriate. While the wording "disqualified from" is actually common in spoken language and sometimes found in written form, the more standard wording in the electoral Acts is "disqualified for".
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 17 not moved.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 15, subsection (3), line 39, to delete "fraud or dishonesty" and substitute the following:
"fraud or dishonesty, except where an appeal against the conviction concerned is brought and the conviction is quashed".
The purpose of amendments Nos. 18 and 19 is to prevent a lifelong disqualification for nomination for election, being elected or holding office as mayor in the event of a person being convicted of a relevant electoral offence or an offence involving fraud or dishonesty. They will also ensure greater consistency between the treatment of the mayor and the members of the authority. A lifelong disqualification would be disproportionate.
A further purpose is to allow for instances in which a conviction is appealed and quashed. The effect of amendment No. 18 is that a disqualification for conviction of a relevant electoral offence or an offence involving fraud or dishonesty will not apply should an appeal be brought and the conviction quashed.
The effect of amendment No. 19 is that a disqualification for conviction of a relevant electoral offence or an offence involving fraud or dishonesty will last for a period of five years commencing on the date of the conviction. Without this amendment, disqualification would be permanent. It should be noted that the maximum term of imprisonment that can be imposed for an indictable electoral offence at a mayoral election is three years under the new section 103 being inserted in the Electoral Act 1997 by section 165 of the mayoral Bill.
These amendments ensure greater consistency of treatment between the mayor and other members of the regional authority who are elected members of local authorities. The disqualification provisions affecting local authority candidates and members are contained in the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999. Section 20(1) of that Act states, "the person shall, on the expiry of such specified period, be disqualified for membership of any local authority for the remainder of the terms of office of the members of the local authority concerned". This would typically be for five years.
Is the amendment agreed to?
Did the Minister have a particular situation in mind, or examples that were brought to his attention, that prompted him to table this amendment?
Can the Deputy think of any, himself?
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 15, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) A disqualification to whichsubsection (3) applies shall be for the period of 5 years commencing on the date of the conviction concerned.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 not moved.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 22 is in the name of Deputy Hogan. Amendments Nos. 22, 29 to 31, inclusive, 64, 65 and 135 are related and will be discussed together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 16, before section 8, to insert the following new section:
8.—The Minister shall report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on proposals to provide the Mayor with powers in relation to—
(a) Dublin Port,
(b) Tourism in Dublin,
(c) Transport strategy and infrastructure in Dublin, and
(d) Policing in Dublin.”.
This is an opportunity for the Minister to give some certainty on the powers of the mayor, to enhance the mayor's role, and to outline that role to the Houses of the Oireachtas along with any powers the new mayor would have in respect of Dublin Port, tourism promotion in Dublin, policing, transport strategy and infrastructure strategy in general. I expect the Minister will have no difficulty in agreeing to this amendment.
I am sympathetic, but unfortunately I cannot accept the Fine Gael amendment which proposes that the Minister should report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on proposals to provide the mayor with powers in relation to a range of matters, namely, Dublin Port, tourism in Dublin, transport strategy and infrastructure in Dublin and policing in Dublin.
I have a few points to make. First, a review mechanism is already in place in the legislation that allows the mayor to go back to the Minister at various stages and recommend that certain powers would be appropriate. This is something that is now recognised as being an innovative part of the legislation.
The functions of the mayor and the regional authority already provided for in the Bill are relevant to most of the matters as outlined by the Deputy. For example the mayor will chair the transport council which will approve the NTA's transport strategy for the greater Dublin area. The mayor and authority will be responsible for making regional planning guidelines and drawing up waste management and water services plans, which will set out the strategic framework for key infrastructural decisions in the region.
Similarly, the importance of tourism to the economic success of the Dublin region will be reflected in the mayor's role and that of the regional development board in promoting the economic development of the region. The contribution of the mayor to enhancing the capital's profile internationally will also provide an important boost for the tourism sector. I see that as being very important. At the moment, as I know as a former Lord Mayor of Dublin, that position is important to promote the region in terms of jobs. I had that task in respect of going to the United States and in terms of tourism. However, the problem is that it is a symbolic role and it only lasts for one year. That is the difficulty of the stop-start situation in relation to the existing position, which I believe is a real disadvantage.
On any additional powers in these areas, the statutory review by the mayor and the Minister to which I referred earlier, provided for in section 72, which must take place within two years of the establishment of the mayoralty - it is important to remember - will provide an opportunity to revisit the matter of the powers and functions of the mayor and the regional authority. It would not be helpful or appropriate to get involved in considering possible changes in functions ahead of that review.
I support the Fine Gael amendment and would like clarification on a few things the Minister said. There will be 5.5 mayors when this legislation is implemented. There will be a mayor of Dublin and a deputy mayor of the Dublin region in addition to the present equivalent of four lord mayors. The Minister's former role as Lord Mayor of Dublin is not being discussed here. What is being discussed is the executive-type new role that is envisaged for the incumbent, as indicated in Deputy Hogan's amendment. The idea of travelling abroad for St. Patrick's Day and stuff like that is an entirely different matter. Perhaps the Lord Mayor of Dublin might do that.
What is being done here is to join up a level of connected strategic thinking for the Dublin region, where the office of the mayor is connected not only to local government but also to the Oireachtas. I believe that is the intent of the motion.
I am giving the Minister the opportunity here to do certain things he advocated, and was anxious to do, during his Second Stage speech. Other Green Party Deputies advocated things as well in equating the proposal for the mayoralty of Dublin with that office in London. I am giving the Minister the opportunity here by setting out the powers attaching to the office, but obviously he is not getting all he wants in this legislation. That is why he might be wise to wait a while longer until the proposals in the White Paper could be realised, so that he can achieve more in the context of what he wishes to do through creating this position.
Will the Minister specify the powers of that position to the Oireachtas, to give the House the certainty it requires in knowing who will do what, and who will have the powers to achieve certain objectives in the Dublin region?
I have already set out the powers and what the mayor can and cannot do. There is a great deal of certainty in that regard. That said, the review period is crucial. It may well be that there are two parties in Government on opposite sides of the political spectrum, with a mayor from those parties elected. It would seem, based on the polls right now, that it could possibly be a Labour Party mayor, and I hope there will be good co-operation between the mayor and the Minister so that the office might evolve into what it should be, namely, a powerful position for the betterment of this city.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 8 agreed to.
Amendment No. 23 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 23 to 25, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 16, lines 27 to 30, to delete subsection (2) and substitute the following:
"(2) Where a vacancy occurs in the office of Mayor during the period commencing 12 months before the 1st day of May in any year in which an election referred to in section 26 of the Act of 2001 is required to be held, the Deputy Mayor shall stand appointed to that office.".
These are technical amendments. The purpose of amendment No. 23 is to provide greater certainty on the threshold after which a mayoral by-election is not held in the event of a mayoral vacancy. Under local government law local elections must be held in May or June every fifth year. The next such year is 2014. As such, the exact date of local elections is likely to be unknown in the preceding year. Should a mayoral vacancy occur during the year preceding the next scheduled ordinary mayor election, 1 May of the following year will be used as the date for reckoning whether a mayoral by-election will take place, or whether the vacancy will be filled by appointment under subsection (2) or (3).
The purpose of amendment No. 24 is to mirror the application of amendment No. 23, thereby providing greater certainty on whether a by-election is required in an incidence in which the office of deputy mayor is vacant. Should a mayoral vacancy occur within 12 months of 1 May of that year in which a mayoral election is ordinarily scheduled to take place, and the office of deputy mayor is vacant, the Minister shall appoint a member of the authority as mayor.
Amendment No. 25 refers to page 16, subsection (3) to delete "Minister" and substitute "Authority", and is in the name of Deputy Ciarán Lynch. I am not disposed to accept that amendment to section 9, as proposed by the Labour Party to the effect that the members of the authority rather than the Minister, as the Bill currently provides, would appoint a mayor if a vacancy occurred, when there is no deputy mayor. The legislation deliberately provides that the position of mayor would be filled by a decision making process that is independent of the authority. Obviously direct election is the normal method. Where a vacancy occurs within 12 months of a due mayoral election it would not be realistic to hold a by-election, so in the normal course the post would be filled by the deputy mayor who will have been selected directly by the elected mayor. In the possible event of such a vacancy arising when the office of deputy is also vacant, the legislation provides that the principle of appointment through a mechanism independent of the authority is maintained by virtue of the Minister having the function to make the appointment in that case.
The rationale behind amendment No. 25 is that it is not really local government if the Minister appoints a person to fill a vacancy in the mayoralty. We suggest the authority should do so. He is correct in stating that if there is 12 months remaining in the mayor's reign and a vacancy arises, it creates difficulties under the terms of replacement. However the Labour Party proposes that the vacancy should be filled with the agreement of the authority and not the Minister, if real local government is to be put in place.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 16, subsection (3), lines 32 to 35, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following:
"(a) a vacancy occurs in the office of Mayor during the period commencing 12 months before the 1st day of May in any year in which an election referred to in section 26 of the Act of 2001 is required to be held, and”.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 25 not moved.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 5.15 p.m.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 17, subsection (1), line 12, after "determine" to insert "but shall not exceed €100,000".
Various indications were given by the Minister about the remuneration package for this position, which was to be in line with a Minister of State. Before I talk about the amendment, would the Minister tell us what he has in mind in respect of this package?
I cannot accept the amendment tabled by Deputy Hogan. It proposes to insert a specific statutory limit of €100,000 on the salary of the mayor. The normal practice-----
It states that it "shall not exceed €100,000."
That is a limit to me. The normal practice in the case of State bodies is to provide for salaries to be agreed by the relevant Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. Section 10(1) states "The Authority shall pay to the Mayor such remuneration as, from time to time, it may, with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance, determine." That is in accordance with the standard approach for remuneration of public service positions. That is the way it is done. The salary of the mayor will be subject to the limitations that have been imposed by the Minister for Finance on public positions. That is an imposition of €250,000, but I do not imagine the mayor's salary will come close to that, if the Deputy wants his fears allayed.
In the current situation, it will reflect what is going on in society. It will reflect the duties of the person involved. I do not think in the current climate that salaries will be given that are out of line with current thinking.
That is what motivated me to table the amendment. The Minister mentioned some time ago that this position would be of similar rank to that of Minister of State. I was assuming that the salary, pay and conditions associated with a Minister of State would apply to this position. I am slightly more relieved to hear it is not necessarily the case. With the consent of the Minister for Finance, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 10 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 17, subsection (2), lines 25 and 26, to delete "from among the members of the Authority".
There seems to be no reason the deputy mayor should be limited to being a member of the authority. After all, one does not have to be a member of the authority to run for mayor. Why should the same criteria not apply to the deputy mayor?
Unfortunately, I cannot accept the amendment, which would have the affect of allowing the mayor to appoint someone who is not a member of the authority as deputy mayor. Just as the mayor is anex officio member of the authority, it is clearly desirable that the deputy mayor should also be a member. If the amendment were accepted, it would be necessary to amend the Bill to provide for an outsider to be appointed as deputy. Those are the difficulties.
People who are on the authority have been elected. Most of them are from the various local authorities. For that reason, I want to stick with what we have.
I will withdraw the amendment, but I ask the Minister to consider the intent or the rationale of this amendment as we move towards Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 11 agreed to.
Sections 12 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 28 and 137 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 18, subsection (1), line 16, to delete "Bhaile".
The amendments reflect the same intent. This is not a technical difficulty, but rather an accuracy difficulty. The Bill refers to the region of Dublin as "Baile Átha Cliath", when it really should be "Áth Cliath". It is questionable whether Dublin should be translated as "Baile Átha Cliath" because that term refers to the city of Dublin rather than the Dublin region. The county councils in Dublin do not contain the term "Baile", even though the mayor's jurisdiction shall apply to those councils.
I know what the Deputy is saying. I was looking at these amendments on Friday and I was very interested in this one. I would not purport to be a linguist, but I know where the Deputy is coming from. One can argue that the term "Údarás Réigiúnach Bhaile Átha Cliath" is correct as well, and Dublin Bus is translated as "Bus Átha Cliath". I will look at this on Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 15 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 16 stand part of the Bill."
I would like to give notice that I intend to bring forward an amendment to section 16 on Report Stage, in order to make clear that where a person who is appointed to the Committee of the Regions is a member of a local authority in the Dublin region, but is not already a member of the regional authority of Dublin, then that person will become a member of the regional authority for as long as he or she is a member of the Committee of the Regions.
Does the Minister have an appointment in mind that he wishes to make?
I mean that. I do not do appointments on the way out.
His colleagues are doing it. They are good at it.
Will the Minister be looking to adopt on Report Stage the weighting systems that are applied to local authority representation, or does he see it as fixed?
We have gone through that and I see it as fixed. The weighting system is best suited to what we have now.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 17 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 20, subsection (1)(c), line 28, after “in” to insert “environmental,”.
A similar amendment was made by the Dublin regional authority that the word "environmental" would be inserted here.
I intend to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage to provide for the Labour Party proposal in amendment No. 29, which was already discussed with the amendment No. 22 tabled by Fine Gael. The amendment will insert a reference in section 18 to bodies engaged in environmental activities. Section 18 sets out the range of bodies in respect of which the new regional authority will have the function of promoting co-operation, joint action and joint arrangements.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 30 not moved.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 21, subsection (1)(g), line 4, to delete “public authority.” and substitute the following:
(h) request a Dublin local authority to adopt such measures as the Authority shall specify for the purpose of the efficient performance by that Dublin local authority of its functions, and
(i) request a Dublin local authority, following an evaluation to which paragraph (e) applies, to adopt such measures as the Authority shall specify for the purpose of improving efficiency in the provision by that Dublin local authority of public services.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 18, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 19 to 21, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 22, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) The Authority shall prior to the appointment of the chief executive hold a hearing into the qualifications and experience of the proposed nominee and report thereon.".
The provisions in these amendments are not dissimilar to what is the case in the US, where a committee system deals with appointments of this nature in the public domain. The idea is in keeping with the Minister's comments on public consultation and public involvement. A level of examination is required when the mayor makes such appointments so that the nominees can be seen to be relevant to the posts to which they are being appointed.
Before responding to the amendments, I wish to give notice that I intend to table a technical amendment to section 22 on Report Stage concerning the ministerial consent provision and a further amendment to section 24 to bring its provisions more into alignment with the provisions of the Local Government Acts with regard to staffing and organisational arrangements, including the performance of duties by staff.
I cannot accept the Labour Party's amendment No. 32, which proposes to insert a requirement on the authority to hold a hearing into the qualifications and experience of the proposed nominee for the post of chief executive prior to his or her appointment. The authority already has the power to determine the procedures for the appointment of the CEO, so it is not appropriate to start writing such procedural details into the legislation. In other words, I do not want to be too prescriptive. More importantly, it would be inappropriate for members of the authority to become involved in the selection of staff. Most people will understand why that would be the case. The role of the elected members who will form the membership of the authority is to decide matters of policy and strategy relating to the region. They are not to take up their time with operational matters like staffing.
This is an innovative way of getting the proposed chief executive to appear before the authority to set out his or her strategy and objectives for the city. It would also allow the nominee to put forward in a robust way the qualifications and experience he or she could bring to bear on the new entitles, including the directly elected lord mayor of Dublin. We have advocated this same innovative approach for the Oireachtas in respect of appointments to semi-State companies. Chief executives and chairmen of semi-State bodies appear before the Committee of Public Accounts, but they should appear before Oireachtas committees before they are even appointed for the purpose of setting out their strategies for the following five years. The principle is the same in both cases. Deputy Lynch's amendment is worthy of consideration in that regard.
While it is a matter for the authority to determine procedures for the appointment of the CEO, I expect an appropriate system to ensure an impartial, fair and effective selection will be followed. For example, it is normal for public bodies, even where not specifically required to do so, to engage the Public Appointments Service for this purpose to ensure a professional and non-political - the most important aspect - method of inspection. Local authorities are required to do this. Let us try to imagine what could emerge if the authority had a certain political weighting, that is, if one political party was in a dominant position. Deputy Hogan referred to appointments to boards and so on. The problem is that the party could start appointing people who were-----
Councils have the power to remove county or city managers.
But they have that power. Maybe they should use it. I could give the Minister a couple of examples. If councils have this power in law, why not give them the power, not to appoint, but to hear a nominee's proposals on what he or she would do?
Deputy Lynch might have had in mind what occurs in the European Parliament before a commissioner is appointed. During a hearing, the future commissioner is questioned by Members of the European Parliament. It is a rigorous system. The European Parliament has only rejected someone a few times. A person must be on the ball before appearing before the committee in question. Perhaps this is what the Deputy had in mind.
Not quite. As the legislation is constructed, it could be construed that the mayor can appoint anyone he or she wants. My amendment provides a level of public accountability to the process and removes any suspicion of political patronage. As the Minister stated, it would be an opportunity for people to demonstrate competencies and skills. If they are up to the rigours of that process, they are certainly up to the rigours of the job.
I am content to withdraw my amendments, but I will do so on the basis that I will revert to the issue on Report Stage. In the interim, will the Minister take cognisance of what Deputy Hogan and I have stated?
Sure. We are trying to get the balance right where the mayor's powers are concerned, even though some have said the mayor will be powerless. Section 22(3) states: "The chief executive may, with the consent of the Minister and after consultation with the Authority, be removed from office by the Mayor for stated reasons." It is important that the CEO must consult with the authority. I understand what the Deputy is saying and I will consider the matter.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 22 agreed to.
Section 23 agreed to.
Amendment No. 33 not moved.
Section 24 agreed to.
Sections 25 to 28, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 26, subsection (4)(a), line 33, after “year” to insert the following:
"subject to the requirement that the annual amount contributed by any one local authority up to and including the first full year of operation of the Authority shall not exceed the amount contributed by that local authority to the dissolved body in 2010, and thereafter shall not exceed the proportion of the costs of the Authority that it met in the first full year".
The purpose of this amendment is to require the Minister to pick up the additional tab for the authority and to cap the contribution of the councils to the amount they contribute at present to the existing regional authority. The Bill provides that the additional sums of money must be met by the existing local authorities and I propose that such sums be set up on a percentagepro rata basis. In other words, should the role evolve and additional costs need to be met, the local authorities would meet those additional costs on a pro rata basis. I find it hard to understand that in the event of a devolution of responsibility from the Minister’s office, that office will not pick up any of the costs for the administration and functioning of this position.
Yes, and for that reason the amendment is inappropriate as it proposes to insert a requirement in section 29 that would have the effect of limiting the annual contributions to the funding of the regional authority by each Dublin local authority to the amount contributed in 2010 by that local authority to the existing Dublin regional authority. It would cap the annual contribution at that level. The Deputy is not taking into account that the new authority will have responsibility for significantly greater functions than does the existing regional authority. This is the case because, to use the Deputy's words, powers are being devolved. Greater powers are being given to this regional authority and to the mayor. They will have greater responsibilities and will perform the important functions of making waste management and water services plans that at present are carried out by the local authorities. Accordingly, there will be offsetting savings to the local authorities in respect of these functions and as I stated previously, I expect cost efficiencies should be achievable by having such functions performed by a single regional authority. The authority also will perform a range of other functions under section 18 of the Bill and the mayor moreover will have a significant role in leadership of the region and its promotion. I already have stated that the costs will be met from the existing budgets. The four year plan envisages additional funding mechanisms for local authorities. These include water rates, which should already have been with the local authorities. Moreover, in addition to the existing second homes charge, it now is proposed to have a site value tax as well. These measures will provide additional funding opportunities and the budget for the authority and for the mayoralty office is quite modest in the overall context. I already have provided members with the figures.
No, the Minister has not.
I already have done so in answers to parliamentary questions. I believe Deputy Hogan has quoted-----
The Minister should tell members of this committee.
----- a figure of €8 million and I stated that such a figure was not in line with what is expected.
It is significantly below that.
Is the Minister engaging in a game of higher or lower? Were I to suggest €2 million, would the Minister reply that it is higher? How much is it?
I have stated it was lower.
Deputy Lynch, on the amendment.
On the amendment, the Minister's response is extraordinary. The cost of the mayoralty pertains to the amendment because the Minister is keeping his cards close to his chest with regard to the sum of money to be allocated for the mayoralty. I have tabled parliamentary questions on its cost and the Minister has referred me to another parliamentary question but neither I nor Deputy Hogan can specifically identify how much the mayoral bill will be.
The cost of the Dublin mayor and the supporting structures will be extremely modest when compared with the totality of local government spending in the region. They will be met from existing resources and, for example, the staffing structure will be relatively modest and will be drawn from the local government sector. Staff numbers will be small in proportion and overall savings in local authority staffing are envisaged under the efficiency review process. I did not mention that the efficiency review will make substantial savings. In Dublin, the efficiency review foresees a reduction in staff of approximately 15%, which will yield over time savings estimated to be approximately €40 million per annum, which will take place alongside the development of the mayoral office. I recently established the independent group to review the staffing complement in Dublin City Council and to recommend within six months actions to reduce staffing in line with the recommendations of the efficiency review group report, with particular emphasis on the number of senior managers.
Costs will not be substantial and there will be offsetting savings on functions currently performed by other bodies. For example, the Dublin local authorities already support the costs of the existing regional authority and a range of collaborative work across the region, which now will be drawn together in this new statutory regional authority led by the mayor. These costs will be consolidated in the new authority, which will be supported by a small administrative office. Opportunities to reduce costs are being taken and while the new strengthened regional authority provided for in the Bill will have 16 elected members, the authority it will replace has 30 members. The number of public bodies operating in Dublin also will be reduced. The four city and county development boards will be replaced by a single regional board. This should all be music to Deputy Hogan's ears because he-----
The Minister still has not answered the question he was asked.
Furthermore, costs will be significantly outweighed by the underlying economic rationale and other anticipated benefits in a range of key areas. The cost of the mayoral election will be provided for through the local government fund. At least the cost of the mayoralty election itself will come from the central Exchequer.
Is that what the Minister calls it?
The Minister referred to the cost of the election.
My point pertains to the cost of operating the offices, not the election.
Yes, but I am trying to make the point that some elements of the cost will come from central Exchequer funding, while the others will come from existing funding. However, as I already have stated, the costs are modest.
Modesty is an interesting word. If one was to apply it to beach attire, one probably would get a different view of modesty on a beach in Malahide than one would in the south of France. The word "modest" is wide ranging and the Minister has yet to give members the specific sum as to what constitutes his definition of modesty. Is it a bikini or a full bathing suit to which the Minister refers this afternoon? If the Minister is going to be evasive on this question, that is fine. Members will return to this argument on Report Stage and perhaps they then will be able to smoke out a response from him as to what constitutes modesty.
I do not think the Minister has read the amendment in full because it proposes an apportionment of costs and does not lock in a specific sum at present. The last line of the amendment refers to the "proportion of costs of the Authority that it met in the first full year". Consequently, it proposes that a local authority which is covering 20% or 40% of the costs this year will continue to meet those proportions into the future. Members are dealing with the present and as the Minister will not indicate to them the cost of the mayoralty bill, they do not know what the exact apportionments of these costs will be. I will withdraw this amendment but intend to table it again it on Report Stage. I hope that by then, the Minister will be able to provide members a specific answer on the cost of the mayoralty bill, at which time they can debate this amendment in further detail.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 26, subsection (4), lines 42 to 46, to delete paragraph (c).
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 29, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
The reason this section is not agreed to is that even from the Minister's comments on Deputy Lynch's amendment, it is clear that he does not wish to provide information to the committee about any due diligence that was carried out in respect of the cost of this office, the number of staff or the parameters he is placing around the office to prevent it from becoming part of another empire-building operation. While members are discussing the finance and accounts for the new regional authority at present, the Minister is not prepared to give the full story or an honest appraisal of the cost of the office and the regional structure that is to be established. He regularly lectures people in local authorities about keeping their cost base low, yet he expects them to place more charges on the taxpayers and citizens of Dublin to fund this office. He is unashamedly saying that the local authorities must come to the office's rescue. He is also getting mixed up on the word "devolution", in that he is actually taking powers from local authorities and giving them to a higher office. It is the reverse of devolution.
It is evolution. He is evolving a new office without considering everything. This is a half-baked solution and he is not prepared to say what the office's cost will be to the citizens of Dublin. Come clean.
Deputy Hogan's opposition to the section would have the effect of removing provision for the financing of the authority in its entirety and, as a result, make the authority inoperable.
I do not oppose the section. I oppose the establishment of something because I do not have the full information.
It would have the effect of making the authority inoperable.
Until it could be properly planned.
Therefore, the amendment is not acceptable. Section 29 sets out provisions concerning the financial affairs and accounts of the regional authority. The section provides for the preparation and adoption by the authority of an estimate of receipts and expenditure by 30 November of each year, a copy of which the mayor must send to the Minister and each Dublin local authority. Each local authority will be required to make payments to the regional authority commensurate with its proportion of the region's population. The total payment made by the four authorities will equal the estimated expenditure of the authority less its anticipated income.
In parliamentary questions, I referred to a document that was presented to Fingal County Council's elected members on proposals for a Dublin mayor in September 2010. The document contained many factual inaccuracies and unfounded speculation and offered a hostile perspective on the introduction of a Dublin mayor. It considerably overstated the anticipated expenditure. For example, an estimate of not less than €1 million was put on consultants' fees to assist with the mayoral strategy. Since there is no basis to conclude that consultants would even be required to produce such a document, that figure is extremely misleading. Subsequently and as Deputy Hogan may know, Fingal County Council issued a press release stating that some personal conjecture regarding the costs of running the mayoral office and the wider implications-----
The heavy hand of the Government was put on it.
-----of the proposals were inappropriately contained in the report and that any confusion or misunderstanding caused was regretted. Deputy Hogan made a great deal of play about this document. That the council has stated the document was without foundation should ease his fears about the costs.
I assure the Chairman that the Minister has not eased my fears one bit thanks to his deliberate intention to not reveal the office's cost. For this reason, I will oppose the section and press the amendment.
As fewer than 12 members are present, under Standing Orders we are obliged to wait eight minutes or until a full membership is present before proceeding to take the division.
The Committee divided: Tá, 7; Níl, 5.
- Brady, Cyprian.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Gormley, John.
- O’Sullivan, Christy.
- Scanlon, Eamon.
- Bannon, James.
- Hogan, Phil.
- Lynch, Ciarán.
- O’Mahony, John.
- Tuffy, Joanna.
Question declared carried
Sections 30 to 32, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 29, subsection (1), line 17, to delete "required by law" and substitute the following:
"permitted by law (including section 179A of the Act of 2001 (inserted bysection 78))”.
This amendment inserts a reference to the section on the protection of whistleblowers as an exception to the prohibition on disclosure of information.
I am happy to say that I accept the Labour Party's proposal to insert an exemption from the prohibition on unauthorised disclosure by changing the reference to matters "required by law" in section 33(1) to matters "permitted by law". I intend to introduce an official amendment for this purpose on Report Stage and, accordingly, I ask that the Labour Party amendment be withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 33 agreed to.
Sections 34 to 36, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 32, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:
"(1B) A planning authority and An Bord Pleanála shall have regard to regional planning guidelines prepared under this Act.".
This is to ensure the mayor's guidelines will have some legal status and that An Bord Pleanála and other agencies take cognisance of them.
Before responding on amendment No. 37, I advise the committee that it is my intention to introduce four essential amendments to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 through Report Stage amendments to the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill 2010. The four technical amendments are required to correct errors in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010. The first amendment will insert required definitions of "quarry" and "operator of quarry " into the 2010 Act. These were inadvertently omitted from the Bill during its progress through the Oireachtas. The second will correct an error made in sections 47 and 48 of the 2010 Act which relates to the seven year time limit for taking enforcement actions against unauthorised quarries. The text of sections 47 and 48 incorrectly refers to a section rather than a paragraph. The third will clarify how the Christmas period should be dealt with in the Act in the context of prescribed time limits. The fourth amendment will prescribe more clearly which type of health infrastructural development should be channelled directly to An Bord Pleanála to be dealt with as a strategic infrastructure project.
I cannot accept the proposed amendment No. 37, which would insert a mandatory provision for planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to regional planning guidelines. This would result in a critical internal inconsistency in the planning Acts, given that the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 now includes the mandatory provision that planning authorities must ensure, when making development plans or local area plans, that the plans are consistent with any regional planning guidelines in force in their areas. This is achieved through section 16, which amends section 27 of the principal Act, the Planning and Development Act 2000. In effect, the proposed amendment would weaken the requirement introduced by the recent planning Act.
The proposal with regard to An Bord Pleanála is not appropriate. The role of the board is to decide on any planning applications referred to it on appeal. The development plan and the local area plan are the touchstone against which planning applications must be decided and the requirement for consistency with the regional planning guidelines will have been reflected in the adoption of these.
Obviously the guidelines are guidelines, and their legal status is questionable. I will withdraw the amendment but I do not think the Minister has responded to its intent.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 38 to 42, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. I believe they are technical amendments.
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 32, lines 12 to 14, to delete subsection (2).
This is a purely technical amendment, the purpose of which is to delete section 37(2). The subsection deals with certain references in the Planning and Development Act 2000 relevant to regional authorities in the context of making regional planning guidelines. The provisions of the 2000 Act containing these references are being dis-applied by the Bill in respect of the Dublin area. The references to regional authorities will be superseded by a reference to the Mayor of Dublin. The technical effect of the amendment is to remove an inconsistency between section 37(2) and section 37(1)(b). It provides that the reference in the 2001 Act to which section 37(2) refers will be deleted; this relates to the greater Dublin area.
Amendment No. 39 is a minor technical amendment to section 38. The purpose is to make a minor technical correction by substituting a reference to "regional authorities" with a reference to "regional authority" in section 38(d).
The purpose of amendment No. 40 is to insert a new section 46. It relates to the functions of the authority under section 27A of the 2000 Act. The effect of the new section 46 is that references to a regional authority in Section 27A of the 2000 Act, which concerns the preparation of a draft development plan, will also include reference to the regional authority of Dublin. As such, the authority will have the same obligations as other regional authorities to prepare submissions or observations with regard to the drafting of a development plan by a local authority, including a report on matters that, in the opinion of the regional authority, require consideration by the local authority in preparing the development plan.
The purpose of amendment No. 41 is to insert a new section 47 which relates to functions of the authority under section 27B of the 2000 Act. The effect of the new section 47 will be that references to the regional authority in section 27B of the 2000 Act, which concern the making of a development plan, will also include reference to the regional authority of Dublin. As such, the authority will have the same obligations as other regional authorities to prepare submissions or observations with regard to the drafting of a development plan by a local authority, including a requirement that the regional authority make a report stating whether the draft development plan and its core strategy are in keeping with the regional planning guidelines currently in force. Should the regional authority form a view that the draft development plan, and especially its core strategy, is not consistent with the regional planning guidelines, its report shall include recommendations as to what amendments of the draft development plan are necessary to provide consistency.
The purpose of amendment No. 42 is to insert a new section 48. It relates to the functions of the authority under section 27C of the Act of 2000. The effect of the new section 48 is that references to a regional authority in section 27C of the Act of 2000, which concerns the variation of a development plan, will also include references to the regional authority of Dublin. As such, the authority will have the same obligations as other regional authorities to prepare submissions or observations with regard to the variation of a development plan by a local authority, including a requirement that the regional authority make a report stating whether the draft variation of the development plan, and its core strategy, are in keeping with the regional planning guidelines currently in force. Should the regional authority form a view that the draft variation of the development plan, and especially its core strategy, is not consistent with the regional planning guidelines, its report shall include recommendations as to what amendments of the draft variation of that development plan are necessary to provide such consistency.
I have never come across a Minister announcing in the middle of discussions on Committee Stage of one Bill that he would table Report Stage amendments for another Bill. Normally, this would be included as part of the miscellaneous provisions of the legislation and it would be circulated to Members so we could examine them. This is a remarkably unusual procedure.
It is entirely consistent. We are trying to put it into this legislation.
Normally, we would deal with miscellaneous provisions at the end of a Bill which we would see beforehand. We should not have to rely on Report Stage amendments.
I am giving the Deputy plenty of notice.
The Minister should have circulated them.
I have tried as best I can to flag these amendments.
The Minister is flagging different legislation here. Up to now, he has flagged Report Stage amendments relating to this Bill. This deals with mistakes the Minister made because he rushed the legislation. The 90 sections included here are a result of not thinking of the Planning and Development Act.
The Deputy is referring to the planning Bill, which I discussed earlier. I was clear when I indicated what was required. I am now dealing with sections relating to functions of the authority. This is the purpose of the current section. We are dealing with amendments Nos. 38 to 42, inclusive.
Will the Chairman provide some guidance? Is it possible that it will not be necessary to go through the same procedure as under the Planning and Development Act, whereby 90 sections of legislation were rammed through without debate? Now, it appears the Minister is correcting some mistakes made because of that action. Will the Chairman help us as he has done before, circulate material and ensure we get an explanatory memorandum? The amendments proposed by the Minister on Report Stage should be circulated to committee members tomorrow.
Report Stage will be taken in the new year.
The Minister has announced his intention; he has thought through the matter.
We will try to facilitate the Deputy in every way we can.
The Minister said that before but it was not the case with regard to the explanatory memorandum for the previous Planning and Development Bill.
If there is anything we can do to facilitate the Deputy, we will do it. That is what I am saying.
The Minister gave commitments before, which is why I am challenging the Minister now.
I have spoken to my officials. I put it honestly that where we can facilitate the Deputy, we will.
My understanding is that we are dealing with these specific amendments. The Minister announced that there would be amendments on Report Stage.
Any discussion on those amendments should be on Report Stage rather than now because we do not have them before us.
It is not fair on us to have to take legal opinion on some of these matters in which, evidently, mistakes were made by the Department and the Minister with regard to previous legislation. The Minister is now seeking to plug those problems in this legislation, which is a different Bill.
The Minister has indicated that he will provide early notice of the details of the proposed amendments. I am satisfied that the Department will see to it.
If the Chairman is satisfied, I am satisfied with it.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 37, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 32, paragraph (d), line 28, to delete “ “regional authorities” ” and substitute “ “regional authority” ”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 38, as amended, agreed to.
Section 39 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 40 stand part of the Bill."
This section seeks to confirm the Mayor and regional authority and to establish regional planning guidelines and the associated procedures. Under this section, the Mayor may give a direction to a Dublin local authority requiring it to act or refrain from acting in a particular manner to ensure compliance with a regional plan, whether it deals with waste, water or whatever. Before so doing, the Mayor must consult the local authority in question. The local authority must comply with such a direction. The mayoral direction may not be inconsistent with a ministerial policy or direction and the Mayor may only approve plans put before him by a regional authority or local authority and may only remove elements inconsistent with other established plans. Therefore, the mayor can only issue directions on plans that are fully drafted by his or her office. It is farcical. It is a mess and needs to be examined in the context of tidying up the responsible roles of each constituent authority in reaching decisions about regional planning guidelines.
I understand the mayor can also only give non-binding advice or issue guidelines to a Dublin local authority on an objective in the plan. The local authority can only have regard to the mayoral advice and guidelines. It is meaningless in the context of the role of the mayor and to try and construe that he or she has a role in drawing up regional planning guidelines and has a function in the matter shows the lack of power of the office.
I know Deputy Hogan was uncomfortable with some of these matters when they were raised at the time of the debate on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill and felt people were constrained by having to comply with the regional planning guidelines, the core strategy and the national spatial strategy. In responding to amendment No. 24, I wish to give notice that I am also considering introducing technical amendments to section 40 of the Bill on Report Stage to reflect changes made by the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010. The purpose of this is not to correct errors, as the Deputy said, but to simply make sure it is part of this Bill.
To come back to the amendments tabled by the Deputy, I cannot accept amendment No. 24 which, in opposing section 40 of the Bill is in effect rejecting the central role for the elected mayor of Dublin and the regional authority to maintain overall responsibility in the process of the preparation and implementation of regional planning guidelines, including the associated public consultation mechanisms informing their preparation.
During the debate on planning legislation, it became apparent that we have had a lack of consistency. Some people do not believe in the national spatial strategy-----
What will be the mayor's function in all of this? He or she will have no role.
The mayor's function is very clear and is laid out in the Bill.
The function of the review and the adoption of the regional planning guidelines is a key element in the strategic role of the mayor and the regional authority which will have responsibility for overseeing the future physical development of Dublin city and the region by setting out regional planning guidelines which Dublin local authorities must abide by. The regional planning guidelines form a key implementation element of the national spatial strategy and the Government's overall framework for achieving more balanced regional development and better strategic planning.
It is important to bear in mind that they form a bridge between national planning under the national spatial strategy and the city and county plans at local level. We are getting consistency across the board which is and has been sadly lacking for quite some time. It is essential to the integrity and effectiveness of the role of the mayor and regional authority that the provisions of the Bill relating to regional planning guidelines are enacted in their entirety.
Section 40 is one of a range of provisions in Chapter 1 of the Bill which, read alongside Chapter 3 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, provides for the making of regional planning guidelines under new procedures in respect of the greater Dublin area, which comprises the four Dublin local authorities and Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. The mayor will have the power to initiate the preparation of the regional planning guidelines.
The regional authority of Dublin and the mid-east regional authority will formally make the guidelines for the greater Dublin area. There is also a default power for the mayor in certain circumstances to make guidelines in lieu of the regional authorities, subject to the provisions of the Bill. The enactment of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 has substantially updated the process for the making of regional planning guidelines and the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Bill and the 2010 Act were in development concurrently.
Section 40 of the Bill amends section 24 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Section 15 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 has also amended section 24 of the 2000 Act and inserted a number of new provisions, principally related to the performance of a strategic environmental assessment or an appropriate assessment during the preparation of regional planning guidelines. As such, the amendments contained in section 40 of the Bill will need to be updated to reflect the changes made by the Planning and Development Act 2000.
The Minister has said absolutely nothing about the powers of the new office that would make any difference in drawing up regional planning guidelines for the Dublin area. These are currently drawn up by local authorities within the Dublin region. Nothing will change, except for the fact that the mayor will chair or can call a meeting, but he or she has no function or power and can be totally ignored under this Bill. The Minister can try to dress it up whatever way he likes but all he has done is read out a résumé of the existing practices and the new provisions of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act, but it has nothing to do with the mayor of Dublin.
I refer the Deputy to section 40(6F) which states:
(6F) Regional planning guidelines made in accordance with subsection (6E) shall contain such guidelines as have already been agreed at the meeting of the Regional Authority of Dublin and the meeting of the Mid-East Regional Authority (other than that part of the proposed regional planning guidelines to which a notification under subsection (6B) applies) referred to in subsection (6E).
Section 40(6G)(a) states:
Where the Mayor of Dublin makes the regional planning guidelines in accordance with subsection (6E), the Cathaoirleach of the Mid-East Regional Authority may, in so far as the guidelines affect the Mid-East Region and are, in the opinion of the said Cathaoirleach, inconsistent with the National Spatial Strategy within the meaning of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, apply to the Minister for a direction that the guidelines so made be amended accordingly.
Section 40(6G)(b) states:
The Minister shall consider an application under paragraph (a) and he or she may, for stated reasons, amend the regional planning guidelines, in so far as they affect the Mid-East Region, in such manner as he or she considers appropriate.
The mayor does not do that.
If the Deputy goes back to that section-----
I am reading the section.
If the mayor objects he or she can change that. That is the fact of the matter.
No, the mayor cannot do anything. He or she can only object and the Minister can make changes if something is not in compliance with the national spatial strategy, which is the existing law under the Planning and Development Act. It has nothing to do with the powers of the mayor.
The sections I quoted showed the mayor, in conjunction with the authorities, can make those changes.
The bottom line is that the mayor can make noise but he or she has no power to make any changes. It is the responsibility of the Minister of the day if something comes to his or her notice to ensure that changes are compliant with the national spatial strategy and regional planning guidelines.
The Minister referred to the Planning and Development Act.
That is correct. We need to have a national spatial strategy which is to have meaning. The Deputy has had a problem from the very beginning because he has seen the process as centralism of a sort.
I was not going to say that but I am glad the Deputy did. The fact is that it is not Stalinism; it is good planning. If the Deputy wants to refer to good planning as Stalinism I am afraid-----
It is good planning, John Gormley-style. Is that correct? As long as he is correct he does not care about anything else.
I know people who advise the Deputy have a view on the national spatial strategy which I would not share.
Lots of people advise the Deputy, as I understand it.
I take advice from all quarters, unlike the Minister.
I disagree with the Deputy. We will have to agree to disagree on these matters. My record and that of my party on planning matters shows that at the very core of what we stand for is good planning.
That is why the Minister was wiped out in the local authorities in the recent local elections.
There is a price to be paid for everything, including principles.
There probably is but it is amazing that the individuals who engaged in the worst type of rezonings top the poll. People can have their choices but the kind of planning in which some people engaged was highly irresponsible.
I apologise to the Chairman for spending so long on the section.
Question put and declared carried.
Sections 41 to 45, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 39, before section 46, but in Chapter 1, to insert the following new section:
46.-References in subsections (1), (2) and (3) of section 27A (inserted by section 17 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010) to a regional authority shall be construed as including references to the Regional Authority of Dublin.".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 39, before section 46, but in Chapter 1, to insert the following new section:
47.-References in subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) of section 27B (inserted by section 18 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010) to a regional authority shall be construed as including references to the Regional Authority of Dublin.".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 39, before section 46, but in Chapter 1, to insert the following new section:
48.-References in subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) of section 27C (inserted by section 19 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010) to a regional authority shall be construed as including references to the Regional Authority of Dublin.".
Amendment agreed to.
Sections 46 and 47 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 43, line 34, to delete "consulting with" and substitute "obtaining the agreement of the elected members of".
The amendment concerns obtaining the agreement of the elected members of the local authority on waste management strategies. The Minister will be aware that previous Governments have handed over the power to make waste management plans from members to managers. Given that the Dublin councils are being reduced to a mere consultation role I suggest the previous position be restored, namely, that the agreement of members be required on this matter. The Minister talks a very good game when it comes to reform of local government, however, under the provisions of this Bill, the existing powers of local authorities are being diluted. If there is an argument in the model of local government for devolution, this is one of those where powers and control should be returned to local authority members. If we truly believe in reform of local government we must begin from the opening premise that we can trust those whom we elect. The Minister's premise, on the other hand, would seem to be that members of local authorities, in their executive capacities, should not be let next or near a decision of any importance or strategic significance.
Before responding to amendment No. 43 I wish to give notice that I intend to consider bringing forward an amendment to section 48 to clarify that where the mayor makes a waste management plan in lieu of the regional authority, the plan will be deemed formally to have been made by the authority. I also intend to consider bringing forward a similar amendment to section 52 in regard to water services strategic plans. These provisions would correspond with provisions in section 40 on regional planning guidelines.
I understand what the Deputy is attempting to achieve but unfortunately I cannot accept the proposed amendment which would require the mayor to obtain the agreement of local authorities before preparing a draft waste management plan. Effectively, this would negate the purpose of the provisions in the Bill relating to waste management planning. One of the core functions of the mayor and the regional authority will be responsibility for ensuring the delivery of an environmentally sustainable approach to waste management in Dublin by proposing and overseeing the implementation of the Dublin region waste management plan. The proposed amendment would effectively defeat this objective by making the mayor's functions subject to prior agreement of the local authorities. As the Deputy will be aware many of these waste functions are not reserved functions but managerial functions.
They were executive functions that have become reserved functions.
At one stage they were reserved functions which then reverted back to managers. As I understand it, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Dempsey, made those changes because he felt that not enough progress was being made in regard to decision making on these issues. However, what we are doing now must be recognised as some progress because we have someone who is accountable, directly elected, and taking on these functions. That powers are being given to a directly elected mayor is worthy of some favourable comment given that previously managers who were not elected and not accountable were making these decisions.
Should the directly elected mayor of Dublin take a position similar to that of Dublin City Council on the Poolbeg incinerator, would he or she be operating within the remit of the functions and powers outlined in the Bill, or would he or she be in conflict with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government?
The Deputy has made the point that the council is making those decisions. I would argue that when it did have those particular powers, the council voted for a waste management plan which included incineration. Those who voted for it on that occasion included Fine Gael and Labour Party councillors even though it had been explained quite explicitly to them that it would result in the location of a mass burn incinerator on the Poolbeg Peninsula. Later the powers changed to the manager. There is no getting away from it, the historical record shows who voted for that.
The manager now has this function. Some councillors claim they are opposed to mass burn incineration and to the location of an incinerator on the Poolbeg Peninsula. Some of those councillors are in the area that appears to be affected while others, such as the Lord Mayor of Dublin, take the view that it should proceed. On the one hand, Deputy Hogan says he is opposed to mass burn incineration and yet the policy of his party seems to indicate it is for incineration. I cannot figure it out.
The Minister did not interpret correctly what I said. The Minister announced the upcoming general election and I take him at his word. I know what he is at but I plead with him not to put out misinformation.
The Deputy knows quite well what I am talking about.
The Minister knows what I am talking about too.
The Minister got caught out like a rabbit in the headlights by calling the election. I ask him not to do his electioneering here.
I have an uncomfortable feeling that the party of which Deputy Hogan is a member may be hand in glove with this incineration company.
I ask the Minister not to go down that route.
I will go as far as I want.
The Minister is on a loser on that one.
I did not raise this issue, it was Deputy Ciarán Lynch. I was responding to it.
The Minister has not responded but has skirted around the issue. The position, as outlined in the Bill, is that the mayor will set out the waste management strategy for the greater Dublin area and does not require the agreement or co-operation of any of the Dublin local authorities and ultimately the directly elected mayor of Dublin must operate in accordance with the waste management legislation. If the mayor was to proceed with the Poolbeg incinerator would he or she be operating in accordance with Government policy? If somebody was to take up that post in the morning that is probably the first question he or she would be asked.
I have said on numerous occasions, that the proposal for a mass burn incinerator is not in line with Government policy. That is very clear. The Deputy can check the historical record and see that I wrote to the city manager telling him not to sign the contract. He should also consider the record of what I have said inside and outside the House.
I understand there has been a report on the Minister's desk for a long period that requires reading.
The Minister has not read it yet.
I have read it, but I have not published it.
That is not my question. The waste management policy will become the responsibility of the directly elected mayor and will no longer be a matter to be determined by either the managers or the elected representatives of the greater Dublin area. It will be a matter for the mayor. Is the Minister saying that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government of the day, following the election of the mayor and in enacting Government policy as it stands at present and assuming there is no change in it, would operate outside the remit of the legislation to proceed with the development of an incinerator anywhere in the greater Dublin region?
It has to be in line with national waste policy. This goes back to the question of consistency. If national waste policy states that we wish to reduce the amount of residual waste, as we do, and the mayor has ambitions in that regard, the mayor is entitled to go down that route, and I would be favourably disposed towards that. However, if national policy is directed at ambitious targets for recycling and if the directly-elected mayor totally opposed that and decided all rubbish in Dublin was to be burnt, that is clearly not in line with national waste policy. It is very clear.
I will withdraw the amendment.
As we are anxious to achieve consistency, the Minister can issue directions to the mayor with regard to those matters. That is clear from the legislation.
The mayor has no functions at all.
The mayor has functions. This is a philosophical point on which the Deputy and I will probably disagree. This is a small country and there must be some form of national consistency, be it in planning or waste management.
I agree with the Minister on that. However, the mayor has no function in it. That is what we are discussing.
The mayor does have a function.
He does not. He is a toothless tiger.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 48 agreed to.
Sections 49 to 55, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 49, before section 56, but in Chapter 2, to insert the following new section:
"56.—Section 2 of the Act of 2008 is amended by—
(a) the substitution of the following definition for the definition of “regional authority”:
" ‘regional authority' means—
(a) a body established under section 43 of the Act of 1991 (other than a body established by the Local Government Act 1991 (Regional Authorities) (Establishment) Order 1999 (S.I. No. 226 of 1999), or
(b) the Regional Authority of Dublin established by the Act of 2010”;
(b) the insertion of the following definitions:
" ‘Act of 2010’ means the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Act 2010;
‘Council' has the meaning assigned to it by section 17 (inserted bysection 59 of the Act of 2010);
‘Mayor' has the same meaning as it has in theAct of 2010;”.”.
This is a technical amendment. Its purpose is to clarify the definition of the term "regional authority" in the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 as not including a regional assembly and to substitute this revised definition for the existing definition of the 2008 Act.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 56 deleted.
Amendments Nos. 46 and 48 are related to amendment No. 45. Is it agreed that amendments Nos. 45, 46 and 48 be discussed together? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 45:
In page 50, lines 25 to 26, to delete paragraph (e) and substitute the following:
"(e) the substitution—
(i) in paragraph (a) of subsection (11), of “Council” for “Minister”, and
(ii) in paragraph (c) of that subsection, of “Council” for “Minister”,”.
I advise the committee that I intend to amend section 57 further on Report Stage arising from recent communications with the Minister for Transport. The core concern is to avoid undue delay in finalising a transport strategy for the greater Dublin area. It will also be necessary to ensure that the transport strategy is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and that the National Transport Authority, having published the transport strategy, takes all reasonable steps to implement it.
The purpose of amendment No. 45 is to correct a minor drafting error, thereby ensuring that certain references to the Minister for Transport contained in section 12 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 are amended to be references to the council, that is, the transport council chaired by the mayor. The purpose of amendment No. 46 is to make another technical correction, the effect of which is to make clear that a reference in section 17(9)(a) of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to section 133 is a reference to section 133 of the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Act 2010 as opposed to section 133 of another Act.
The purpose of amendment No. 48 is to make a minor technical correction. A reference to subsection (3)(b) in section 18(4)(a)(ii) of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 is corrected to refer to subsection (3)(a).
Amendment agreed to.
Section 57, as amended, agreed to.
Section 58 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 52, line 38, to delete "section 133” and substitute the following:
"section 133 of the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Act 2010”.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 53, to delete lines 30 to 41 and substitute the following:
"(18) The Mayor may—
(a) at any time remove from office a member of the Council appointed under paragraph (a) of subsection (4), or
(b) after consultation by him or her with the Minister, at any time remove from office a member of the Council appointed under paragraph (b) of that subsection,
if, in the opinion of the Mayor, the member has become incapable through ill-health of performing his or her functions, or has committed stated misbehaviour, or his or her removal appears to the Mayor to be necessary for the effective performance by the Council of its functions.".
The purpose of this amendment is to simplify the procedure by which the mayor may remove a member of the transport council which the mayor appointed without the nomination of the Minister for Transport. The effect of the provision is to remove a requirement that the mayor first consult the Cathaoirleach of the Mid-East Regional Authority, who is anex officio member of the transport council. The Cathaoirleach has no role in the appointment of members of the council and therefore should not have a role in their removal. It should be noted that the mayor must consult the Minister for Transport regarding the removal of a member of the council who is nominated by the Minister.
Removal of a member of the council is provided for should the mayor form the opinion that the member in question has become incapable through ill health of performing his or her functions, has committed stated misbehaviour or it appears necessary for the effective performance by the council of its functions.
This is probably the first real power the mayor has been given, to remove somebody from this council. However, he has no role in transport policy. The Minister for Transport retains the power to issue a direction regarding Dublin transport. The transport council will approve the National Transport Authority's strategic traffic management plans for the greater Dublin area and the mayor has no say and no role. He or she will sit as part of a group of 12 people offering his or her opinion. Is that not true?
It is interesting to listen to Deputy Hogan. He will have the opportunity, perhaps in a few months,-----
Whenever the Government decides to have the election.
-----to be in office. It is similar to all the other issues that have been raised in the House in recent times. For example, Fine Gael has outlined its intention to reverse the cut to the minimum wage, etc. I will await all these marvellous changes with bated breath. I would be the first to welcome any changes Fine Gael might make in respect of local government which would be constructive and which would steer matters in the right direction. We will see what happens.
What I am doing is this Bill represents a major step in the right direction. Deputy Hogan has stated I am not going far enough.
The Minister should answer the question I asked. Will the mayor have any power in respect of transport policy?
What will be the nature of that power?
As chair of a committee with substantial clout, the mayor will have power in respect of these matters.
Will the Minister outline those powers?
As I am only too well aware, when one is chairperson of a-----
I am interested in hearing about the powers that will be conferred on the mayor. Will the Minister outline them?
As chairman of the greater Dublin area transport council, the mayor will be working with the National Transport Authority, NTA, and overseeing the preparation of the regional transport strategy. That strategy must be compared by the NTA "in such form and manner as may be directed by the Council". The mayor will be chairperson of the council which, as such, will control the preparation of the strategy. The latter will not be presented to the Minister for Transport for final approval without clearance from the council. A similar process will be followed in respect of the strategic traffic management plans and these will also be approved by the council. In addition, working with the NTA, the council will also have oversight of the draft integrated implementation plan, shorter-term investment and the operational and procurement plan for the region prior to their presentation to the Minister for Transport. The mayor will chair the council.
That is all the mayor will be doing.
As at all levels of government, authority will be shared, policy formation will be deliberative in nature, responsibility will be pooled and checks and balances will always exist. The mayor will be involved in the policymaking process within the NTA and will enjoy a unique position astride the transport and special planning policy realms. This is an entirely new dynamic for regional leadership and governance in Dublin. That is very clear but perhaps the Deputy does not want to recognise the facts.
It will be a political reality that the mayor's unique mandate from the voters of the region will provide him or her with a very strong and credible voice across all the relevant policy areas. When the position of directly elected mayor was introduced in London in the 1990s, it was met with a certain degree of scepticism and there was continual criticism to the effect that the mayor lacked the power to intervene in operational matters in the context of controlling funding and imposing taxes. Within a few years, the office of mayor of London had demonstrated its relevance. The office of mayor of Dublin will evolve in exactly the same way. I presume the polls are correct and that Fine Gael and Labour will be in power following the general election. In such circumstances, I hope they will give the office of mayor a fair wind. I also hope they believe in the mayoralty and in local government in general. I need them to demonstrate they believe in this office but I am obliged to ask whether they intend to stymie it. What happens will be up to them.
Does the Minister accept that, as far as the Opposition is concerned, the principle of having a directly elected mayor for Dublin is not an issue? In the context of the long lecture he just delivered, the Minister failed to tell the full story. If the National Transport Authority rejects any recommendations from the council, it will only be obliged to publish its reasons for doing so and the mayor will have no say whatsoever in respect of the day-to-day provision of transport services in the greater Dublin area. That is a fact. The mayor will be a member of the council and, as such, will only have the same rights as the other ordinary members thereof. The mayor will have no power whatsoever. The Minister for Transport and the National Transport Authority will have all the responsibility in this regard. The mayor will have no function other than to make submissions, write letters or obtain the approval of the council to make representations.
The Minister is trying to ascribe to the mayor additional powers that will not be available to him or her. The sooner we come to grips with the fact that the mayor will have very little power in the areas of transport, housing and so many of the other matters that affect the citizens of Dublin, the better. We must also recognise the cost that will be involved. The Minister let the cat out of the bag when he stated that the office of mayor will evolve. What is involved, therefore, is evolution and not devolution.
The Deputy is making too much of my use of the word "evolve". He is aware of what I mean when I use that word. The office will develop over a period.
I provided the example of what happened in London. I recall the scepticism that was expressed by one of those who eventually occupied the office of mayor of London, Mr. Ken Livingstone, who voted against the relevant legislation when he was a Member of the House of Commons. Mr. Livingstone was more than happy to take on the role of mayor when he was elected to the position in 2000.
When considering legislation, one must always examine the benchmark. In this regard it relates to what was there before and what is in place now. At present, we have a symbolic post of lord mayor. The person who occupies this position is not directly elected by the people and has minimal powers. We are replacing the position of lord mayor with a mayor who will have a suite of powers available to him or her and who will be directly elected for a period of five years. This will be a vast improvement on the current position. As stated, the office will evolve. The mayor will have a significant input into transport policy in Dublin city.
We have witnessed the difficulties that arose in recent years. It is frustrating when issues such as integrated ticketing are left on the back burner. Problems also arose in the context of the provision of real-time information relating to buses. We are now there or thereabouts when it comes to solving these problems. The great success of the Luas and the DART will add significantly to public transport in the city. I am of the view that the mayor will have a huge input in this regard. If the mayor and the Minister for Transport find themselves at loggerheads, that would not be a good situation. Those who have served in the position of mayor of London quickly learned that it is necessary to work in tandem with central government. Mr. Boris Johnson did not have a go when the British Labour Party was in power. Similarly, Mr. Ken Livingstone, who is a recalcitrant individual, did not do so either. Both individuals were aware of the need to work with those in central government. The position will be the same with regard to the mayor of Dublin.
I take Deputy Hogan's point that, in the context of the mayor having responsibility for transport, this provision is quite weak. I am of the opinion that the matter of local government reform should have been dealt with in the first instance and that the role of local councils should have been enhanced. Serious consideration should have been given to devolving some transport functions to these councils in order that they might provide school bus services or whatever. That is the type of matter to which we should be giving consideration.
The Minister will probably state that what is being done here is more strategic in nature. As stated however, the provision is very weak. In addition, it has been changed in respect of people who are appointed under section 59(4)(a). Prior to its being amended, the section stated that the cathaoirleach of the Mid-East Regional Authority had to be consulted. Under section 59(4)(b), the mayor will still be obliged to consult the Minister but he or she will no longer be obliged to consult the cathaoirleach of the Mid-East Regional Authority.
The mayor will be able to appoint people and it consequently follows that he should be able also to dismiss them. I understand the logic in this regard. On the other hand, however, it is strange that the mayor would be in a position to remove someone if, in his or her opinion, "the member has become incapable through ill-health of performing his or her functions". That is a discriminatory clause. Why should the mayor decide? Surely the person should make the decision about whether he or she is in good enough health to perform the functions. This could be abused. What magical qualifications would a mayor have to make such a determination? Was this provision modelled on a similar provision in previous legislation? If so, will the Minister give examples?
Yes. I understand this is standard wording that is used in other legislation. The Deputy asked for specific references and I will try to find some but I am assured by my officials that this is used elsewhere and is not seen as discriminatory. The wording used is "through ill health performing his or her functions has committed stated misbehaviour or appears necessary for the effective performance of the council". Section 17(21) of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 states: "The chairperson or an ordinary member of the Council may at any time... resign his or her membership" or "be removed from membership of the Council by the Minister if, in the Minister's opinion..." The difference in that case is the Minister can do it whereas under this section, the mayor will have that function.
A Minister is very different from a mayor and the positions to which people are appointed by a Minister are different from a mayor. This is a quasi-democratic body. I do not want to presume what our spokesperson might want but I might suggest to him to examine this provision because it is archaic. When we debate politics, gender and so on are mentioned but it seems to be acceptable to be ageist and to discriminate against people on the grounds of mental health and so on. I have my doubts about this provision and even if it was used, it is one thing to give a Minister a draconian power regarding appointments, it is another to give it to a mayor. I have my doubts about the wording. Perhaps the Minister will examine it.
This is where it becomes a little strange. The Deputy is saying it is one thing to give a Minister this power but quite another to give a mayor that power.
But Ministers make the appointments not to democratic bodies but to quangos or whatever.
Deputy Hogan said earlier that at least I am giving the mayor some power.
Deputy Hogan is saying it is good that I am giving the mayor the power whereas Deputy Tuffy is saying the power should be given to the Minister not the mayor.
I do not have the same position as Deputy Hogan on this.
There is again a slight inconsistency between the Labour Party and Fine Gael on these questions. They are separate parties and they have their own policies.
Exactly. The Green Party is supposedly a separate party as well. It is not necessarily right for a Minister but this relates to a quasi-democratic body. It is not fully democratic but it must have some sense of democracy.
It also has to be effective.
The provision is in the 2008 Act referred to by the Minister. Has it ever been used in regard to a democratic body? It is a bit much to have the mayor to decide that somebody is incapable through ill-health of performing his or her functions.
A mayor acting in this way would take advice but these bodies must be effective. If somebody on one of these bodies-----
Would the person be examined medically?
Sometimes it is clear if a person is notcompos mentis or whatever.
This is a bit much. That is not true. These things are subjective. People often say somebody is mad but they do not say the person should be unelected or deselected.
The Minister said he is in an asylum.
The entire Cabinet should go.
I said that the Government is in a crisis.
The Minister mentioned the word "asylum" as well.
The Deputy will be going there pretty soon.
I will not push this but it should be examined again. I have my doubts about that.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 59, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 48:
In page 54, lines 26 and 27, to delete "subsection (3)(b)” and substitute “subsection (3)(a)”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 60, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 61 and 62 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 49 to 54, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 55, to delete lines 12 to 18 and substitute the following:
" "(1) The Authority shall—
(a) not later than 6 months after the establishment day within the meaning of section 17,
(b) not later than 6 months after the declaration by the returning officer, under section 133 of the Local Government (Mayor and Regional Authority of Dublin) Act 2010, of the result of the poll at each election for Mayor, or
(c) upon a request from the Council,
prepare, and submit to the Council, a draft strategic traffic management plan (in this section referred to as a ‘draft plan') in respect of the GDA, which shall identify the actions to be taken to secure, in the opinion of the Authority, the optimal movement of persons, goods and vehicles.",".
I wish to advise the committee that I intend to withdraw amendments Nos. 49, 51 and 53 arising from recent communications with the Minister for Transport. I propose to table further amendments on Report Stage in light of these communications. The central issue is that the Bill should be amended to allow the NTA to proceed to prepare a plan and to submit the plan to the transport council for approval and in order that the authority may initiate that process.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 55, paragraph (b), line 20, to delete “draft” and substitute “draft plan”.
This is a minor technical correction to change a reference to "draft" in section 64 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to "draft plan". The purpose of amendment No. 54 is to clarify which body will be responsible for conducting a review of a strategic traffic management plan and to ensure the authority must comply with a direction of the GDA transport council to conduct such a review. The effect of the amendment is that the NTA will be the body responsible for conducting a review of strategic traffic management plans and, if instructed by the council to conduct a review, it must do so.
I cannot accept amendment No. 52 tabled by the Labour Party, which would require the GDA transport council to obtain the approval of the regional authority of Dublin prior to making a traffic management plan. The effect of the amendment would be to complicate unduly the approval process following the wide-ranging consultation process enshrined in legislation. Section 63(4) of the Dublin Transport Authority Act provides that the NTA shall in preparing a traffic management plan consult with, and consider the view of various interested parties in the GDA, including the National Roads Authority, the Garda, roads authorities, local communities, etc. Section 65 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act provides for the preparation, adoption and implementation of a local traffic plan by a road authority for its functional area for the effective management of traffic, which is consistent with the strategic traffic management plan within six months of its publication.
The reason we tabled the amendment is the GDA transport authority, an unelected body, can make the strategic traffic management plan. As the regional authority is a more democratic body in terms of its mandate and representation it should have the final say. That is the purpose of the amendment.
We went through the argument earlier on. The chair of the body will be the directly elected mayor, who is directly elected by the people of this great city. He or she will be a person of influence who can steer the committee in a certain direction, therefore that person derives his or her democratic mandate from the citizens of the city. There is a mandate and democracy is involved in the process. It is not giving the person total power by any means but it is a step in the right direction because until now such democratic input did not exist.
At the same time, the Minister is letting the council but not the Dublin authority have a say. Why not give the responsibility to the greater Dublin authority to sign off on the plan rather than the council?
The fact is that the greater Dublin area transport council makes these decisions. The amendment proposes that it get prior approval from the-----
We want it to have the final approval.
I understand the Labour Party amendment seeks to require the approval of the regional authority of Dublin prior to making a traffic management plan,
It states a plan made by the council under the section shall not have effect unless approved with or without amendments by the regional authority.
It is not; it is different. I understand it would give the final say to the GDA.
Yes, the Labour Party contends that it cannot proceed with it until it gets approval from the Dublin regional authority.
Yes. We are saying it is a draft until it is approved.
As I said earlier, I do not see it as necessary because the person who is working in tandem with the authority is chairing the greater Dublin area transport council. This is a step in the right direction. I appreciate that the Opposition would feel more can be done. More can always be done but we need to ask if we are going in the right direction. We are.
I recall at the time of the debate on civil partnership, criticisms were voiced to the effect that the Act did not go far enough and that we were somehow enshrining discrimination in legislation, etc. It was a groundbreaking Act and was a huge step in the right direction. The benchmark is whether we are going in the right direction. We are.
Having a directly elected mayor chairing the greater Dublin area council is a significant step which is why I am very supportive of it. It will make a difference. It is not perfect but as part of that evolutionary process we are going in the right direction.
Will there be an election before the general election?
We will stick with the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 55, to delete lines 28 to 31 and substitute the following:
"(b) require the Authority to resubmit (not later than one month from notification of the requirement) the draft plan for consideration by the Council incorporating such changes in the draft plan as the Council shall specify, or”.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 52 not moved.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 56, paragraph (d), line 1, to delete “subsection” and substitute “subsections”.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 56, to delete lines 3 to 7 and substitute the following:
" "(5) The Council shall, not later than 6 years after the making of a plan, require the Authority by direction in writing to conduct a review of the plan and, consequent upon that review, to prepare, and submit to the Council, a new draft plan in accordance with this section not later than 6 months after the completion of that review.
(6) The Authority shall comply with a direction under subsection (5).".".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 63, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 56, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) The Authority may, for the purposes ofsubsection (2) and having regard to subsection (3), request a Dublin local authority to adopt such measures as the Authority shall specify in relation to the performance by that Dublin local authority of its functions.”.
I wish to give notice that I intend to introduce further technical amendments to section 64 of the Bill on Report Stage to extend the reference to Government policies to include policies of the Minister.
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the authority has statutory mechanisms by which it may communicate with a Dublin local authority in respect of ensuring consistency and compatibility of the local authority's activity with Government policies and in respect of promoting the effective and efficient provision of public services within the Dublin region.
The effect of the amendment is that the authority may make a request to a Dublin local authority and that it adopt such measures as the authority may specify in regard to the performance by that local authority of its functions to ensure consistency and compatibility of its activities with Government policies and to promote the effective and efficient provision of public services within the Dublin region.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 64, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 56, subsection (2), line 33, after "concerned" to insert the following:
", and the giving of views under this subsection shall be a reserved function".
This amendment would require that the members be consulted in respect of the proposed direction by the mayor rather than merely consulting the manager. It is to try to make the Bill more democratic and have the maximum level of democracy in terms of how the mayoralty and the Dublin regional authority operate.
I wish to advise the committee that I am considering tabling an amendment on Report Stage to section 65 to oblige a Dublin local authority which has received advice or guidelines from the Minister to adopt appropriate measures on foot of the advice guidelines issued by the mayor under the section and to inform him or her of such measures. I am also pleased to say that I accept the Labour Party proposal to provide that the giving of views under section 65(2) on the proposed directions by the mayor be a reserved function. I intend to table an amendment for this purpose on Report Stage and accordingly ask that amendment No. 56 be withdrawn.
I will withdraw it on that basis. I expressed concerns about the idea that a mayor could give directions to a Dublin local authority. The Minister is able to make directions. I can understand why Deputy Hogan would oppose the section. It undermines the powers local authorities have. I ask the Minister to explain what kind of direction would be given.
As explained in the Bill, there are a whole range of areas on which the mayor can give direction. It is preferable that a directly elected mayor has such powers rather than an unelected manager which is what we have had over the past number of years. Managers have gained more and more power.
Section 65(1) of the Bill states:
The Mayor may give a direction to a Dublin local authority requiring it to do such thing or refrain from doing such thing as is specified in the direction if—
(a) he or she considers that the doing or refraining from doing of that thing is necessary for the purposes of ensuring compliance by that local authority with [for example] a regional plan, or
(b) he or she considers that that local authority is performing its functions in a manner that is not consistent with a regional plan.
I think I have used the phrase "checks and balances" previously in this debate. This is another example of the checks and balances we are providing for.
I welcome the fact that the Minister is taking on board what we have proposed in this amendment. He has agreed to introduce a similar amendment on Report Stage. I have the same problem with this idea that I had with the planning Bill. It is fine to say that the mayor will be an elected person. The Minister is also an elected person. I had the same problem when it was proposed to allow the Minister to make directions to local authorities under the planning Bill. The issue is that the Minister is providing for centralisation rather than local democracy. The mayor will be able to tell Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Dublin City Council what to do. Power will be centralised in a single supposedly benign person, albeit an elected one, rather than being given to local people on the ground in the individual local authority areas. I have concerns about this section of the Bill.
As members may be aware, I went to Monaghan recently to launch a guidance document on the use of integrated wetlands to mitigate pollution. Deputies Tuffy, Hogan and Fitzpatrick may have an interest in this matter. During my visit, I met a number of local representatives from the Monaghan area who took exception to the fact that I issued directions to overturn certain planning and rezoning decisions in that county. They made the same argument that Deputy Tuffy has just made, which is that local representatives know best when it comes to planning. I have to say I disagree with them.
The Minister thought he knew best when it came to planning in Carrickmines, but he lost in the High Court.
I did not lose on all points.
It did not cost the Minister any money, but it cost the taxpayer a great deal of money.
The Deputy needs to read the judgment.
He needs to read it very carefully.
I know the difference between a winner and a loser.
I do not consider this to be about winning and losing. I am interested in doing what is in the national interest. I appreciate that is a hackneyed phrase at the moment. There have been real planning abuses, such as overzoning, in certain areas. Consistency is required. I remind Deputy Tuffy that we have seen huge inconsistencies in zoning from county to county. The property bubble was caused by overzoning. The legislation that provided for the ministerial power of direction was in place before I took office as Minister. This is not a new development.
That does not mean it is right.
I believe the decisions on overzoning that were made by a previous Minister and by me were right. We did the right thing in relation to planning.
My problem with the planning Bill was that it went further than the previous legislation by providing that the Minister could make the plan for the local authority by default. I do not think that is what is happening here. Section 65(8) states specifically that "a Dublin local authority shall comply with a direction given to it". I assume that means a Dublin local authority can draw up a new plan. The planning Bill provides that the Minister can go in and make the plan. I consider that to be a fundamental undermining of democracy. At least that is not happening here. Why did the Minister decide to take a different approach in this case? This legislation will give a Dublin local authority a chance to redraw its plan, whereas the planning Bill allows the Minister to draw up the plan for the local authority.
We need to be clear on the terminology. In this instance, we are talking about regional planning guidelines. We are not talking about development plans. I am saying that the framework is all-important. The regional planning guidelines, which derive from the national spatial strategy, is the framework. If an overarching framework is not in place, the potential will exist for serious planning errors to affect all aspects of our lives. Transport, for example, is affected by bad planning. The downturn has given us an opportunity to get it right. We got it seriously wrong during the boom. Things were out of control. We made some fundamental errors. I would like to see us go further. I have been in contact with many local authorities that are having to spend a great deal of money on roads and road maintenance to serve dispersed communities. That is another example of bad planning. Planning permission was handed out willy-nilly. Costs are associated with such bad planning.
The Green Party has been a strong proponent of the narrative that councillors were responsible for the bad planning to which the Minister refers. I suggest that a great deal of overzoning resulted from directions made by the Minister of the day. I refer to the ministerial decision to provide for higher residential densities, for example, which led to many apartments being built in places like Leitrim, Roscommon and Cavan. I know it is wrong to single out places. That type of thing went on. Many of those apartments are now vacant. The idea that councillors are bad planners and the Minister, or, in this case, the mayor, is benign is wrong. That is not the way it operates.
I am familiar with what has occurred in Leitrim and elsewhere. Some of it represents very bad planning. I accept there are vacant apartments and ghost estates in such places. Some of the planning in such cases was promoted through various tax incentives, etc.
That was another decision made at central government level.
The Minister for Finance and others have said they recognise such schemes were wrong and led to the inflation of the property market. Various aspects of these matters combined to cause the difficulty we are discussing. We are trying to rectify that now. We are trying to get rid of property reliefs. Many of them have been discontinued since the Green Party came into government. No incentive of that kind is being offered at present. We have dezoned land in many areas. That was required because too much zoning had taken place. A great deal of progress has been made in rectifying this problem. I hope we will never return to the circumstances in which 25% of our GDP depended on the property market. It was completely unsustainable.
I apologise. I was talkingad nauseam.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question, "That section 65 stand part of the Bill", put and declared carried.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.