We are meant to live in a democracy, but we only vote every couple of years and have little control over our economic resources. At the political level, decision making has increasingly been centralised, with little scope for local people making local decisions. For all of their limitations, local councils used to provide important services, but successive governments have stripped them of responsibility for refuse collection, driver licensing, education grants, direct responsibility for water provision, and other services.29 Meanwhile, funding was cut significantly for remaining services, including road sweeping, housing maintenance, park maintenance, road and path repairs, libraries, playgrounds and other basic services for communities. Data produced separately by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Ireland had the biggest cut to local government spending in the EU 28 from 2008-2015.30
The Local Property Tax was meant to improve local services but it merely replaced a portion of the Local Government Fund in 2016, meaning there was no substantial increase in services to match the extra tax on households. People Before Profit would reverse this trend and reinvigorate local democracy. Real democracy can only develop when there is a tradition of ‘people power’ – when people empower themselves by mobilising to achieve what they want.
People Before Profit Would Extend Democratic Decision Making By:
- Abolishing control by unelected CEOs of local councils. At the moment elected councillors have little control. In Dublin City Council, for example, 50 of the 52 councillors voted against an incinerator. But the unelected management ignored them and commissioned one. We would change the laws to take away this power from unelected management.
- Introduce a recall procedure for all public representatives who vote against items they favoured in their manifestos. Where it can be shown that a public rep voted in the opposite way to their election literature, there must be a mechanism to allow votes to recall them.
- Extend the Freedom of Information Act to cover private firms that receive contracts to run public services. Abolish fees for Freedom of Information requests.
- Introduce citizens’ assemblies, based on town hall meetings, which can choose delegates for national assemblies on a rotating basis.
- Reinstate article 48 of the original Irish constitution. Give citizens a right to referenda on receipt of 50,000 signatories.
- Reduce the voting age to 16. Young people are affected by political decisions as much as older people.
To improve people’s lives at a local level we would:
- Scrap the Local Property Tax (LPT). The LPT is a tax on people’s family home. We would scrap this austerity tax and replace it with higher rates of tax on corporations.
- Increase funding to local Community Centers to make sure they have modern facilities for art, sports and other recreational activities. They should also engage in community initiatives such as Operation Transformation to make it easier to maintain a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle.
- Provide free Wi-Fi in built up areas to turn Ireland into a hot spot of the digital age.
- Revitalise our libraries to make them store houses for all sort of mediums, places of learning and a hub where children meet.
- The privatisation of waste collection has been a disaster. Illegal dumping has spread and waste collection prices have risen. We would take the waste collection system back into municipal control paid for through taxes and rates.
- Develop proper re-cycling facilities at local level. In many EU countries there are free –recycling facilities in many estates.
- Planning to revitalise communities. We would give local people a greater democratic input into planning. We would not allow green spaces to be sold off for huge profits.
- Cut the rates for small business – increase them for the big chains. Social activity in smaller towns and suburban centers is diminishing as we move to US style shopping in big out of town centers. We will seek to reverse this trend by relating business rates to turnover. Smaller shops in city centers will pay less – big supermarkets will pay more.