There has been some talk recently that Councillors don't have any power.
Last Tuesday (13th May 2014) on TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne one of the topics for discussion was "Since Councillors have such little powers, should the electorate vote on national rather than local issues?"
Closer to home an anonymous blogger, "Bock the Robber", contends that Councillors don't have any practical power. Bocks' blog on the matter, "Local Elections 2014 - What powers do local Councillors have?", is quite insightful and correct up to a point.
However, there are two decision-making powers that Councillors have collectively that have been overlooked by both Browne and Bock, possibly because they both live in areas where such decisions have not affected them. These involve Part 8 planning permission and the acquisition and disposal of property or land.
Part 8 planning requires Councillors to vote on whether or not a development project should proceed and there is no leave to appeal to An Bord Pleanala for members of the public that are unhappy with the decision; the vote determines the final outcome. A good example of this is the recent application by Limerick Youth Service to build a Youth Centre in Ballananty.
The acquisition and disposal of property or land by the Council requires a majority vote. For example, if the Council want to buy out a homeowner in a "regeneration" area for a pittance and make them a tenant in another area the Councillors must vote to approve the purchase of the home from the "regeneration" area resident and the purchase of the house that will be rented to them elsewhere.
This is how the Council's policy of depopulation in "regeneration" areas was facilitated. Not only did this policy show no regard for people's Constitutional right to property (turning homeowners into tenants) but it has also impacted greatly on the residents of "regeneration" areas as the houses were boarded-up and left to be looted for copper and burnt-out. While the vast majority of displaced residents are decent and law-abiding, some families that might be described as 'marginal' or 'at risk' have been displaced and are now causing problems in other estates.
The disposal of land can also impact on the quality of life for residents. The decision to close Roxboro Swimming Pool and sell the land to a developer for €10 million left the public with no amenity and there is no evidence to suggest that the sale benefited the communities affected. Another example is the sale of a section of the Peoples Park to facilitate a private development.
Councillors do have certain powers, if elected I would consult with the communities on matters that would affect them and vote in accordance with their wishes.
On May 23rd please think before you vote.