Accountability and Democracy in Fingal County Council?

In theory, Councillors set the policy and the Manager implements it.  The practice is quite different. 

Take, for example, the proposal for a dual carriageway from Baldoyle to Blanchardstown, parallelling the M50 motorway and with flyover junctions in the middle of new residential areas.  This road is not in the County Development Plan and has never been voted on by Councillors. Yet already millions have been spent on consultants and a road design and Environmental Impact Statement is being drawn up.  The entire focus is on the impossible task of providing enough road capacity for this high-density development.  Public transport is being treated as an afterthought.

I believe that whenever the officials intend to appoint consultants, then the terms of reference should be brought before the Councillors.  The current system brings us the proposal at the very end of the process and expects us to rubber-stamp it.  At that stage most Councillors aren’t willing to upset the apple-cart and go along with whatever is proposed, even if communities are opposed.

Next Tuesday at the adjourned Council meeting, the following motion of mine will be discussed.  What happens to it will be of considerable significance for democracy in Fingal.

51. Cllr. D. Healy

“That the Council, in order to
have effective and timely input by the elected Council into the work being done
by consultants for the Council who are often preparing work which will lead to
decisions by the Council in exercise of reserved functions, in exercise of its
powers under section 138 (2) and (3) of the Local Government Act 2001 which
provide as follows:

“138 (2) Subject to this section,
an elected council or joint body may by resolution direct that, before
the manager performs any specified executive function of the local
authority or joint body, he or she shall inform the elected council or
joint body, as the case may be, of the manner in which he or she
proposes to perform that function, and the manager shall comply with the

 “138 (3) A resolution under subsection (2) may relate to any
particular case or occasion or to every case
or occasion of the performance of the specified executive function
and may define what information is to be given and how and when it
is to be given and the manager shall comply with the

 and noting
s.138(4) which provides as follows

 “138 (4) Nothing in this section
prevents the manager from dealing immediately with any situation
which he or she considers is an emergency situation calling for immediate
action without regard to subsections
(1) to (3).”

by this resolution directs that
in every case or occasion when the manager proposes to perform the executive
function of entering into a contract to appoint consultants he notify the
elected Council of the manner in which he proposes to perform that function and
that he do this by bringing the proposed brief or terms of reference to the
relevant Area Committee or Strategic Policy Committee as a headed item for
their consideration.”