The Role of Longford County Council
The Role of Longford County Council was constituted under the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. It is one of 29 County Councils in the Republic of Ireland serving a population of 40,810 (prelim data Census 2016) and delivering a wide range of services necessary to the physical, economic, social and cultural life of the county.
County Council's perform both a representational and an operational function because the Irish system of Local Government encompasses both democratic representation and public representation. The representational role is performed directly by the elected members of the County Council. Longford County Council has 18 members from 3 electoral areas within the County boundary. Members of the Council are elected according to a system of proportional representation for a period of five years. The Cathaoirleach is elected from the membership of the Council at the annual meeting usually held in July of each year. The wide range of functions performed by the elected representatives are called "reserved functions" and these lay down the framework of policy under which the Chief Executive operates. Such functions comprise mainly decisions on major matters of policy and include:
- Adoption of annual Budget
- Approval for the borrowing of money
- Making and varying of Development Plans
- Making, amending or revoking of Bye-Laws
- Bringing enactments into force
- Nominating persons to act on other public bodies
The County Council makes its decisions by Resolution at its monthly meetings. The operational role is performed by the Chief Executive and their staff. They are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Council. The functions carried out by the Chief Executive are called " executive functions". Such functions include:
- Employment of staff
- Acceptance of tenders
- Management of the Local Authority's property
- The collection of rates and rent
- The granting and refusal of planning permissions
- Day-to-day administration
The Chief Executive makes his decisions by written Manager's Order. In making his decisions the Chief Executive must act in a way that is consistent with the policy which has been established by the elected members and have regard to their wishes. He has the right to attend meetings and take part in discussions but is not entitled to vote. Whenever requested by the Cathaoirleach or elected members, the Chief Executive must furnish all information in his possession or procurement concerning any business of the Local Authority. He must inform the elected members before undertaking any new works other than works of maintenance or repair. The Local Authority may prohibit the undertaking of any such works thus brought to its notice, provided that they are not works which the Local Authority is required by law to undertake.
Strategic Policy Committees (SPC's)
Proposals for the reform of local government in Ireland were published in the policy document "Better Local Government - A Programme for Change", 1996. The objective of the Programme is to create a modern, efficient and properly resourced system of local government based on the following principles:
- Enhancement of local democracy
- Improvement of customer service
- Developing efficiency
- Provision of proper resources
The programme involves the establishment of Strategic Policy Committees (SPC's) to enhance the policy-making role of the elected member. Each SPC will examine particular policy areas in detail and report on necessary changes to the full Council. The Committees are comprised of elected members (Councillors) and external representatives of bodies/sectors relevant to the Committees' work. You can view further details of the council's SPc's SPC Membership
The Cathaoirleach of the Council and the Chairpersons of the SPC's form a Corporate Policy Group (CPG) which has a key role in developing an enhanced role for Councillors. This group links the work of the SPC's, acts as a type of cabinet and provides a forum where policy positions affecting the whole County can be agreed for submission to the full Council.
Services are provided for members of the public by the various Departments of Longford County 8 Council under the following 8 Programme Groups which are standard to all Local Authorities:
- Housing and Building
- Road Transportation and Safety
- Water supply and Sewerage
- Development Incentives and Controls
- Environmental Protection
- Recreation and Amenity
- Agriculture, Education, Health and Welfare
- Miscellaneous Services
Financing of Services
The expenditure of Longford County Council on provision of services can be classified under two headings:
- Revenue ( Current ) Expenditure: on day-to-day provision of services e.g. housing maintenance, road maintenance etc. The main sources of funding for this expenditure are:
· Government grants and subsidies
· Commercial rates
· Income from goods and services e.g. housing rents, housing loan repayments, service charges, planning fees, etc.
- Capital Expenditure: on creating assets e.g. house building, major road improvement works etc. The main sources of funding for this expenditure are:
· Capital grants from the Exchequer
· Capital receipts e.g. Sale of houses and lands
Regulations governing the operations of Local Authorities
Local Authorities operate subject to statute law and specific codes. Their operations are regulated by:
- EU Directives
- National Legislation
- Local Legislation e.g. Bye-Laws
- Adopted policies of the Council.
In addition, a wide range of rules, procedures and guidelines are used by the Local Authority in making its decisions, determinations and recommendations. A list of these items is published in a separate manual prepared in accordance with Section 16 of The Freedom of Information Act, 1997, as amended.
The Accounts of the Local Authority are subject to audit by the Local Government Auditor who is employed by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Local Authorities are, also, subject to investigation by the Ombudsman, the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.
Format and Classes of Records held by Longford County Council
Longford County Council holds a variety of records in the following formats:
- Paper files - most of the County Council's records are held in this format
- Computer databases - information held on disk
- Computer printout
- Microfilm/Microfiche - very limited use of this format
- Audio/Video - limited specialist information held in this format.
Classes of Records. Records are maintained by Longford County Council on the following broad subjects:
These are records relating to the day-to-day management of the County Council. Information held in this area includes general correspondence and subjects such as organisation of training courses; allocation of leave; office provision for staff; staff recruitment, remuneration, re-location and retirement; circulation of information documents and much more.
This is information held on the formulation and implementation of the Council's policy which can evolve from a range of sources e.g. technical reports; professional opinion of staff and external bodies; adopted resolutions of the Council and Manager's Orders. It is likely to contain analysis of proposals for development from the point of view of cost, impact and practicality.
All national legislation governing Local Authority activities is held by the Council as the statutory reference for its programme of works.
Information in this category includes Departmental Circulars issued to the Local Authority as instructions/guidelines for the administration of various schemes. It may, also, include recordings by staff of their experiences in operating any such schemes.
Much of the work of the public service is now set out in European Union directives and guidelines on particular aspects of policy enacted at Union level. Material held on these would contain information on the directions and how they are interpreted and operated.
Meetings of the County Council
Longford County Council is required by law to hold an annual meeting and a budget meeting each year. However, to efficiently conduct the business of the Council it meets on a much more regular basis than this. · A Monthly meeting of Longford County Council takes place on the 3rd. Monday of each month (except August) usually at 3.00 pm. in the Council Chamber, Aras an Chontae. An Annual meeting at which the election of the Cathaoirleach takes place is held in July of each year. A Budget meeting is held each year to consider the Local Authority Budget for the subsequent year. Strategic Policy Committee meetings and Area Committee meetings take place on a regular basis. The Cathaoirleach may call a meeting at any time or any five members may call a meeting if the Cathaoirleach, after requisition by five members, does not call a meeting within seven days. A set of rules called "Standing Orders" are made by the Council to regulate it's proceedings and cover items such as notice of meetings, order of business, voting and other matters. The Cathaoirleach chairs Council meetings and has a casting vote which s/he may use at his/her discretion in the case of an equality of votes. Written "Minutes" of the meeting and the resolutions passed at it are prepared. These minutes are circulated to the members for confirmation with the agenda and notice of the next meeting. Following being proposed, seconded and confirmed by the meeting, they are then signed by the Cathaoirleach.
Attendance at Meetings
The Chief Executive has a right to attend Council meetings and to take part in discussions as if he was a member but he does not have a right to vote. Other County Council staff attend as required. Section 45 of the Local Government Act, 2001 provides a statutory right, subject to special considerations, for both the media and members of the public to attend Council meetings. If a deputation wishes to speak at a Council meeting notice of this intent must be given to the County Council one month in advance.
Election to the County Council
Local elections are to be held every five years. Polling in local elections takes place throughout the country on the same day. Election to the Council is by way of proportional representation and casual vacancies in membership caused by death, resignation or disqualification of elected members are filled by co-option of a new member by the remaining members. The co-opted member has the same tenure as the member whose place he takes and retires with the general body of Councillors.
Longford County is currently divided into 3 Municipal Districts i.e. Ballymahon (6 Members); Granard (6 Members) and Longford (6 Members), thus, a total of 18 members is elected to Longford County Council. The Cathaoirleach is elected from this representation.
Who is entitled to vote in a local election?
Persons aged 18 years and over are entitled to be registered to vote in a local election for the electoral area in which they ordinarily live. Irish citizenship is not a requirement for eligibility to vote at a local election.
Nomination of Candidates
Subject to specified disqualifications and incompatibilities, every person aged 18 years and upwards who is an Irish Citizen, or not being a citizen, is ordinarily resident in the State, is eligible for election as a member of a Local Authority. Nominations may also be made by any elector who is on the register of electors for the electoral area to which the nomination is made but the candidate must give his consent to the nomination. A candidate is required to lodge a deposit which is refunded if a candidate polls more than a quarter of the quota.
In Longford the Returning Officer is a senior employee who is responsible for the conduct of the election and for declaration of results. When nominations are completed s/he makes arrangements for holding the election, appoints necessary staff, has ballot papers prepared etc. The Local Authority must draw up Polling Schemes for the electoral area specifying the polling stations in which people must vote. This is a reserved function of the Council.