A directly-elected mayor for Dublin should have a wide range of powers including the ability to raise taxes and borrow money on the international market, the Citizens’ Assembly has decided.
The assembly voted overwhelmingly last year that Dublin should have a directly-elected mayor with executive powers who could introduce new regulations if necessary and appoint their own cabinet.
The mayor would have competencies in the city over 15 areas which includes housing, transport, infrastructure, climate change, the night time economy and childcare.
The final report on the recommendations of the assembly, which met four times last year and was chaired by former Dublin manager Jim Gavin, has just been published with 18 recommendations.
Mr Gavin described the assembly as an “extraordinary exercise in deliberative democracy” and he hoped that the misgivings of some members of the assembly that the report will be left on the shelf will be unfounded.
Mr Gavin said local authorities in Ireland sit near the bottom of the European Union countries in terms of the amount of power and autonomy they have from central government. Just 1.2 per cent of government spending is spent directly by local authorities.
In his foreword to the report, Mr Gavin said the citizens had come up with a “vision for local government structures in Dublin that befits a modern, dynamic, and diverse European and global capital”.
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“The members have spoken loudly and clearly about the need for reform and their recommendations on a series of new structures to support the new directly-elected mayor will represent a major change in how our city is run and will, I believe, transform the shape and direction of local government in the city and county for generations to come,” Mr Gavin said.
A Citizens’ Assembly for a directly-elected mayor for Dublin was contained in the 2020 Programme for Government.
The assembly recommended that the decision on whether or not Dublin should have a directly-elected mayor should be put to the people of the Greater Dublin Area in a plebiscite.
The person, they believed, should “act in the interests of Dublin’s population and be above party politics” and should incorporate the ceremonial activities of all four mayors of the existing local authorities – Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council.
The four existing local authority areas, though, should be retained, but there should also be a new Dublin City and County Assembly to make policy proposals to the mayor, to approve the budget and to scrutinise legislation.
The mayor should have a cabinet, membership of which should be made up of a majority of elected councillors. The appointment of the cabinet should be a joint decision agreed between the mayor and the councillors, the assembly recommended.
The report states that there is a “clear need to devolve powers from central government down to local government, with adequate funding and effective functioning of local authorities”.
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The report said that councillors are “not visible; their role and powers are unclear; levels of engagement with the public are poor”.
Partially this is down to the fact that they are part-time representatives and often have other jobs to hold down as well, the assembly said.