Move to strip Cllrs of powers on Public Land is undemocratic and unacceptable

Senator Rebecca Moynihan
05 February 2021

Labour Local Government spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan has said the latest power grab by the Minister for Housing through the proposed Land Development Agency Bill is unacceptable and undemocratic, and must be dropped.

Senator Moynihan said:

“The latest power grab by central government to strip Councillors of the power to block land transfers and disposals is deeply troubling and undemocratic. This is a core function and power of local Councillors.

“I am calling on the Minister to drop this proposal from the Land Development Agency Bill that is due to be published today. This is an attack on one of the few powers that Councillors have. It is not local authorities that have caused delays in the building of housing, but the inertia and muddled policy actions of recent Ministers and the Department of Housing and Local Government.

“While such a move by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to undermine local democracy is nothing new, I would be very surprised if Green Party TDs accept this proposal to strip Councillors of their power around the disposal of land.

“This move would concentrate the power around land and development in the hands of too few people and there is no evidence that local authorities are holding this up. Creating such a powerful national body that overrides local councils is the wrong way forward. Strategic Housing Developments through An Bord Pleanála which also stripped powers from local authorities has been a disaster and has undermined the planning process.

“The sale of any public land has to be accountable to elected public representatives. We should be strengthening our local democracy, not weakening it. The Minister and his Department continually seek to blame local Councillors for the delay in the rollout of housing when it is bureaucracy and a lack of funding for social housing that lies at the root of the problem. This will delay further plans for social and affordable housing, and make it more difficult to deliver community infrastructure which is often a condition of land disposals at local authority level.

“I will bring amendments to the Bill to ensure that the sale or disposal of any public land is accountable to public representatives if the Minister proceeds with this terrible idea. We should be giving Councillors more powers and functions rather than weakening our local democracy.”

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