A SINGLE tier of local government consisting of no more than 22 county councils as well as the abolition of all regional authorities and town councils and a cut of €100 million in the Local Government Fund is recommended.
The report proposes that all households be charged for water, initially at a flat rate pending installation of meters, saying this would “open up a new and sustainable source of revenue”.
A single national authority for delivery of water services is recommended to replace county councils, with an ability to plan and manage supplies on the basis of river catchments – in line with the EU Water Framework Directive.
The group recommends a freeze on commercial rates for at least three years “to alleviate pressure on business in the current economic climate”. This would reduce returns from the only independent source of revenue available to local authorities. Without mentioning a return of domestic rates, the report says alternative sources of income “should be explored”.
It notes that local authorities spent more than €12 billion (current and capital) in 2008, or 6.3 per cent of GDP. “Given the scale of the spending and the current challenging budgetary situation, there is scope to reduce current expenditure by at least 10 per cent.”
There “should be rationalisation of the number of local authority structures, including regional, county and town structures, and local authority agencies, to take account of modern circumstances”.
It recommends a move to a single tier of local government through abolition of regional authorities and town councils, and proposes a reduction in the 34 local county or city authorities, in the remaining single tier of local government, to a maximum of 22.
It notes that housing is the largest item of expenditure in the Department of the Environment’s budget, and endorses the move away from construction of social housing in favour of leasing or buying already-built new homes.
It calls for a review of selling existing local authority housing stock, saying “discounts for tenant purchase should be withdrawn”.