Monthly Archive for January, 2013

My proposed changes to local election wards in Dublin 15

 

Last Friday I made a submission on behalf of the Dublin West Green Party proposing some changes to the make up of local election wards in the Dublin 15 area. These were contained in my submission to the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee, which is looking at the local election wards across the country.

I’ve suggested that the current Castleknock ward should be renamed Blanchardstown & Castleknock. This is appropriate, as all of Blanchardstown village and surrounding estates are in this ward. I’ve also suggested that the Mulhuddart ward be renamed Mulhuddart & Ongar to reflect that Ongar is the major new population centre in the ward. I think it is important that the names of the wards reflect the reality of the areas they cover.

I also proposed the movement of one electoral district, called ‘Lucan North’, between the two wards. This is the area including Clonsilla village and Laraghcon estate. I’ve suggested that it should be moved from Mulhuddart & Ongar to Blanchardstown & Castleknock. This was where it was before the last redraw of boundaries in 2008.

I am making this suggestion to balance the population between the two wards. The Minister for Environment is proposing that there should be significantly more councillors in Fingal County Council. By moving this area, it would allow the Mulhuddart & Ongar ward to have 8 seats, and the Blanchardstown & Castleknock ward to have 7 seats, under the new numbers being proposed by the Minister.

The results of the boundary redraw in Dublin 15 and across the country will be made known by the end of May.

Good News on possible Dublin 15 District Council

As you know, I recently wrote to the Mayor of Fingal, asking that he raise with Fingal County Council the issue of support for a Dublin 15 District Council. These proposed reforms of local government were discussed at the Council’s recent monthly meeting, and the Mayor has indicated to me that there is general support for the idea of district councils.

I am pleased to see that the Council is taking a broadly positive attitude to this proposal. A Dublin 15 District Council would allow more decisions on local matters be taken solely by the councillors elected in the existing Mulhuddart and Castleknock/Blanchardstown wards. This will increase transparency and democratic accountability, as local councillors will have to take full responsibility for local decisions. Decisions that have a county wide impact, such as the Development Plan, would still be taken on a county-wide basis.

There needs to be consistency in car parking charges at Irish Rail stations

Expensive car parks = Empty car parks

Prior to Christmas, the cost of parking charges in Irish Rail stations along the Maynooth line was raised with me by a constituent.

There is a big difference in the charges between two of the stations on the Maynooth line. In Coolmine Station, the rates are €3 per day or €10 per week paying with cash or credit card (€2 per day or €8 per week using the ParkbyText service). However, in the Navan Road Parkway Station, only two stops away, the rate jumps to €4 per day or €18 per week. Over a one year period, this difference in price really becomes apparent.

As the Navan Road Parkway Station is not located within a residential area, the vast majority of commuters using it will have to access it via car. Surely, having such a high parking price is a significant disincentive to people using the station as a park and ride facility? It can be contrasted with the M3 Parkway, past Dunboyne, which is actually free to use!

I’ve contacted Irish Rail over the issue. A spokesperson informed me that the reason for big difference in price is that the Navan Road Parkway station is fully owned and run by private operators. Irish Rail maintains an ability to influence parking fees in the car parks it still controls. (Raises some questions about how good a deal was reached regarding the building and ownership of the Navan Road station in the first place).

I’ve subsequently contacted the private company running the Navan Road Parkway station to lobby them to review their current prices. While I understand the need economic pressures that companies have to operate under, with the economic climate as it currently stands, the size of the difference in price is a significant disincentive to people using the car park and as such, public transport.

I haven’t heard anything back from them yet, but I will update further if/when I do.

Real local government reform need in Dublin 15

Last week I wrote to the Mayor of Fingal CC, asking him to raise with the Council the idea of devolving certain decision making powers to a ‘Dublin 15 District Council’, after the 2014 local elections. Such a development will be permitted under the new legislation for county councils that the Minister for Environment, Phil Hogan is proposing. These plans are set out in the ‘Putting People First’ document.

One of the most significant elements of this plan is the proposal to replace the existing town council level with a new series of ‘municipal district councils’ that will function below county council level across the country [Part 6]. This will allow a significant degree of decision making be made at a lower level, closer to the people that they affect.

However, the Minister’s proposals appear to indicate that these municipal districts will not automatically apply in the three local authorities surrounding Dublin [6.4.9]. The proposals leave open the option for some level of delegated decision making – possibly similar to existing local area committees.

I believe that Fingal County Council should make it clear at this stage that it intends to devolve powers to districts within the community. A ‘Dublin 15 District Council’ would see certain issues decided solely by the councillors elected by Dublin 15 residents. These would include decisions on amenities and facilities in the area, determining priorities for programmes of work on roads or council housing etc. It could also decide on certain planning issues, connected solely to Dublin 15. Issues that affect all of Fingal would still be decided by the entire body of Fingal County Council.

I think its right that the councillors elected in the Dublin 15 area should make the decisions on issues the just affect our area. A few years ago, a controversial planning document which permitted high rise buildings in Castleknock village was approved by Fingal County Council, where councillors for Swords, Balbriggan and Malahide were able to come together and outvote Dublin 15 councillors. It was regarded as hugely unfair that people with no local knowledge were able to impose such a plan against the will of the residents. Having such an issue decided by a Dublin 15 District Council in the future would be far more democratic and accountable.

I look forward to hearing back from the Mayor of Fingal about my proposal.