Ten national political parties, who between them fielded over 1,000 candidates in last week’s local elections, have signed up to a trade union pledge to increase local authority funding and restore local council powers in areas like housing, water and environmental protection.
The figure rises to over 1,100 when independents, and individual signatories whose national party didn’t back the pledge, are included.
The ‘Local Power Pledge’ was endorsed at national level by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, People Before Profit, Solidarity, Independents 4 Change, Aontú and the Workers Party. Almost 300 (290) candidates also signed the pledge individually, including 15 Fine Gael candidates and 52 Independents.
The pledge is part of the ‘More Power To You’ campaign for enhanced local democracy and community services, which was launched by Fórsa, Siptu and Connect in March. Between them, the three unions represent over 30,000 local council workers.
The unions called for substantially increased revenue and funding powers for local authorities after they published research that shows Irish councils have less autonomy from central government than their counterparts in 39 European countries. Their ‘More Power To You’ campaign also calls for legislative changes to facilitate directly-elected mayors and restore and expand town councils, which were abolished in 2014.
Fórsa Director of Campaigns Joe O’Connor, who has coordinated the campaign, said the overwhelming response demonstrated a hunger for stronger local democracy among citizens and their elected representatives.
“The fact that only 8% of Irish public spending occurs at local government level, compared to an EU23 average of over 23%, is compounding shortcomings in services as diverse as housing, water, waste and sustainable domestic energy use,” he said.
Prior to launching the campaign in March, the unions commissioned research from Dr Mary Murphy of Maynooth University. It found that Irish local authorities perform fewer functions than municipalities across Europe.
Her report, Democracy Works If You Let It, said Irish local democracy had been eroded by austerity-era budget cuts and staff reductions; the centralisation of services like water, driving licences and higher education grants; the privatisation of services like refuse collection and housing; and excessive executive direction and new management processes that have increased bureaucratic powers at the expense of political representatives.
Three of the national parties that signed the pledge did so with slight caveats. Fianna Fáil does not support the reintroduction of public provision of domestic waste services. The Workers’ Party and Solidarity do not support directly-elected mayors.
Read more about the More Power To You campaign HERE.