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Report of the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee

30/05/13

Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government announced today (30 May 2013) the publication of the Report of the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee established by him in November 2012 to review and make recommendations on local electoral areas.

The Minister in publishing the Report announced that he has accepted in full the recommendations in the Report and that he will be making the necessary local electoral area orders to give effect to these in due course. The local electoral areas specified in these orders, and the number of members to be elected for each electoral area, will apply at the 2014 local elections. The Minister thanked the Committee for carrying out its important work in a timely and efficient manner.

The Minister said “the completion of this report is an important next step in the Government’s programme for local government reform.  The review had a specific goal of improving balance and consistency in representational ratios in local government, while taking particular account of factors such as the location of towns in the new municipal governance arrangements provided for in the Action Programme for Effective Local Government. The terms of reference for the review provided for minimum levels of representation in lower population counties and cities.”

The Committee has made recommendations on the division of each Council area, other than Cork City, into local electoral areas. These are named, detailed and mapped in the report. The Committee has also made recommendations on the number of members of each council to be assigned to each local electoral area. 

Arising from the recommendations in the report a total of 949 councillors will be elected at the 2014 elections, in 137 local electoral areas, for 31 local authorities. This is a significant reduction from the current 1,627 councillors (of which approximately 200 are both town and county councillors). 

“Many will focus on the reduction in the number of council seats from 1,627 to 949 and the number of local authorities from 114 to 31. However, beyond these reductions is the development of a far more integrated approach between county and municipal government to better serve the needs of all citizens. This radical structural reform will provide a sound platform for the wider development and strengthening of the local government system in the future,” said Minister Hogan.

The current number of councillors in local authorities was set in the distant past. There have been huge changes in population in recent decades, which have resulted in great disparities in the ratios of councillors to population as between different counties.
Whereas previous local electoral area reviews left the totals in each local authority unchanged, the current review involved a fundamental reform of the system to take into account the population changes and representational disparities.
In carrying out its work, the Committee was also required to have regard to the Action Programme for Effective Local Government and in particular the proposals for a new municipal district structure for local government in counties outside Dublin.  The recommended local electoral areas will form the basis for configuration of the new municipal districts.  The Committee also had regard to the decision of Government to merge the councils of Limerick City and Limerick County, North Tipperary and South Tipperary and Waterford City and Waterford County.

The Action Programme for Effective Local Government recognised the need for a certain minimum critical mass to enable a council to operate effectively and accordingly, the terms of reference for the boundary committee provided for a minimum of 18 seats per council, so that the smaller rural authorities in particular have a much more favourable level of representation than would have been the case if population ratios were being uniformly applied.
Absolute equality is not feasible. If the overall average ratio of 1:4,830 was applied to the 4 Dublin local authorities for example, this would result in an increase in the total number of councillors to 264, more than double the current total, which would not be sustainable in the context of reform. Accordingly, the number of seats in each of the Dublin counties has been capped at 40 and the membership of Dublin City Council has been increased to just 63. This is considered appropriate in the context of rebalancing the distribution of council seats nationally.
The Report is available online at www.boundarycommittee.ie and at www.environ.ie and will be available next week from the Government Publications Sale Office, tel. 01 6476834.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Municipal districts
The recommendations on local electoral areas will provide the basis for the configuration of the municipal districts to be established in counties outside Dublin in accordance with Putting People First: Action Programme for Effective Local Government.  Generally, each municipal district will consist of a single electoral area. However in some particular circumstances, for example for reasons such as geographic coherence, population, or other factors related to the configuration of municipal districts such as the definition of 'metropolitan' municipal districts within the unified authorities in Limerick and Waterford, a district may comprise more than one local electoral area. 
The Local Government Bill 2013 being prepared will provide for a range of reforms across local government including structures i.e. mergers, sub-county and regional reconfiguration.  It will include specific provision for the determination of municipal districts by the Minister by order.
The tier of town local government as we know it will no longer exist.  These existing sub-county structures will be replaced by a new, coherent model of municipal governance which will address current weaknesses and anomalies in the existing system of town local government.
Municipal Districts will cover the entire territory of each county, reflecting European norms, uniting towns with their hinterlands, removing outdated boundaries and ending the anomalous treatment of some larger urban centres. 

Recommended Local Electoral Areas by Size - see page 12 of report.

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