Welcome to part 5 of my mapping the state blog. This is part of a series analysing the Irish State. Part 1 of the series focused on the formal framework of the government . Part 2 of the blog focused on The Judiciary and the Oireachtas. Part 3 focused on Local Government and Ranking the Departments. And part 4 focused on Quangos.
How to get nominated to Local Government
If you wish to be nominated to stand for election to a local authority in Ireland, there is a specific week in which you must be nominated. This week takes place four weeks before the polling day.
You may nominate yourself or be nominated by a local government elector registered in the area. You may be nominated to stand in more than one area.
How to get elected to Local Government
Local elections are held in Ireland every five years in May or June. At these elections, members of the local community elect different Councillors to represent the community in local authorities.
The number of Councillors that may be elected to each local authority changes from area to area.
The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government may divide each city or county area into smaller local electoral areas and may fix the number of Councillors that can be elected for each of these areas.
The polling date is fixed by an order of the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and is the same day in all of the local authority areas. The polling period must last at least 12 hours usually between 7.00 am and 10.30 pm.
The responsibility for conducting the election lies with the secretary or clerk of each local authority that acts as the returning officer. Each local authority pays the cost of running the election.
There is a week for nominating candidates to stand at local election; which occurs four weeks before the polling day.
On the polling day, voters can vote by secret ballot in their local polling station. The electoral system is based on proportional representation with single transferable vote.
If a candidate is elected to more than one local authority area, they must declare in writing which area he or she wishes to represent within three days of the public notice of the results of the election.
How partisan party politics work at local level
At government level, your vote will be dictated by the party whip. Each party will be told what they are going to vote on. In Local Government the whip is not as strong and people are more likely to vote for what they want.
Local Government is much more communal than oppositionist, they usually rise above party politics.
Strengths & Weaknesses of Irish Local Government
- Local authorities are able to adapt to local needs and react more quickly to local problems than central government.
- Local government is closer to the public and allows them to have a more direct voice in the running of services.
- Local governments allows people from the political parties to gain experience in politics and gain knowledge on issues such as transport, education and social care.
- Party politics is not relevant at local level. Decisions over local services should be made in terms of what is best overall. Not based off party politics.
- It is difficult to recruit capable people as Councillors at local level.
- Local Government can stifle local initiatives for the provision of services by local voluntary groups.
Where Local Government gets its income
- Goods and Services– Local authorities have the power to charge for services they provide e.g commercial water charges, housing rents and waste charges.
- Rates– Rates are levied annually by county, city, borough and certain town councils. Each of these authorities has exclusive rating jurisdiction within its own area. Rates are usually levied against the occupiers of commercial properties.
- Specific state grants– Specific State grants are paid to local authorities in respect of specific services/schemes.
- Local Government Fund– This is a special central fund which was established in 1999 under the Local Government Act 1998. It is financed by the full proceeds of motor tax and an Exchequer contribution. The Fund provides local authorities with the finance for general discretionary funding of their day-to-day activities and for non-national roads, and funding for certain local government initiatives.
- Community Fund– An elected council may establish a separate ‘community fund’ to support specific community initiatives such as amenity, recreational, environmental or community development projects of benefit to the area concerned. Contributions to the community fund may be made by local voluntary, business or community groups, and may be raised by the local authority by way of a community initiative scheme.
6. The Environment Fund– This is used primarily to support environmental initiatives, campaigns and programmes, many of which are organised at local or regional level under the auspices of local authorities. The proceeds of the plastic bag levy, which is paid by consumers and collected from retailers by the Revenue Commissioners, are paid into the Fund.
What is Local Government money spent on
The money spent by local authorities falls into seven main categories:
- Environmental Services
- Development Management
- Other(college grants, motor taxes, etc.)