Working group report on citizen engagement with local government is published

Monday, March 3, 2014

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, T.D. today  published the report of the working group on citizen engagement with local government, which makes recommendations on extensive input by citizens into the decision-making process at local government level.

The Working Group, which was set up in September 2013 under the chairmanship of Fr. Sean Healy proposes a mechanism to enable the community and voluntary and environmental sectors to take an active formal role in the policy making and oversight activities of the Local Authority.
A framework for public participation, which has been provided for under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, will provide the basis for this formal engagement with the community and will be underpinned by regulations and guidelines from the Department. The regulations and guidelines, while allowing for the set-up of the framework for public participation across all Local Authorities, will also allow for more diverse engagement of citizens through other mechanisms, including the use of social media.

Minister Hogan stated:

“The type of arrangement proposed in the report meets the requirements in Putting People First, which emphasises the relationship between the local authority and local community groups. Community organisations have a distinct relevance for the community leadership role of local government as such groupings include many of those citizens most active in, and committed to, their localities. The development of strengthened relationships between local community groups and Local Authorities will be mutually beneficial".

He added:
“I must stress that the primary responsibility and accountability for decision-making within the local authority remains with the elected council. As part of a revitalisation of local government, the approaches to engage the public in local authority policy formulation and service design must go beyond the range of communication, consultation and community participation mechanisms used in the past.

Approaches to stimulate greater public participation should complement rather than diminish, compete with, or substitute for local representative democracy. The participation of members of local communities, whether as individuals or as members of local sectoral, community or other groups in public life and their right to influence the decisions that affect their lives and communities are at the centre of democracy. Open and inclusive policy-making enhances transparency and accountability, and builds civic capacity.

I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to the members of the working group, who gave freely of their time in developing the report.”

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