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Local Government Administration

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government oversees the operation of the local government system and implements policy in relation to local government structures, functions, human resources and financing. Local government in Ireland consists of a number of local and regional authorities and municipal districts.

There are:

• at county/city level:  26 County Councils, 3 City Councils, 2 City and County Councils.

• at municipal district level:  95 municipal districts.

• at regional level: 3 regional assemblies

Because of the role local authorities play, the range of matters for which they are responsible and their closeness to local communities local government has a more immediate effect on the day-to-day lives of the people than most other sectors of public administration. In common with Dáil Éireann and the Presidency, it is the only other institution whose members are directly elected by all of the people. Local government has, therefore, both a representational and an operational role, with responsibility for a range of services.

The elected council is the policy-making arm of the local authority the members of which act by what are termed ‘reserved functions’ which are defined by law and specified across a whole range of enactments. These comprise mainly decisions on important matters of policy and finance (e.g. adoption of annual budget, development plan, bye-laws). The day-to-day management of the local authority, including staffing matters, is vested in a full time chief executive. The chief executive and/or staff to whom functions are delegated discharge what are termed ‘executive functions’ – in effect these involve the day-to-day running of the authority within the policy parameters as determined by the council. Any function of a local authority that is not specified in law as a reserved function is deemed to be an executive function. The legal character of a local authority thus comprises two elements, the elected council of the authority and the chief executive, with responsibility for performing local authority functions shared between them. However, legally all functions, whether performed by the elected council or by the chief executive, are exercised on behalf of the local authority.

Putting People First An Action Programme for Effective Local Government  

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