EVERY TOWN COUNCIL AXED; Plan to Scrap 80 Councils and 744 Councillors Will Save 'Hundreds of Millions'; Minister Rejects Department's Own Plan for Replacement Bodies; We're Paying 'Far Too Many Councillors' Says Hogan

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Byline: John Lee POLITICAL EDITOR

EVERY town council in Ireland is to be scrapped in a radical reform of the local authority system, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The plan is the brainchild of Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who claims county councils can provide the services more efficiently, saving the Exchequer hundreds of millions.

The number of county councils will also be reduced, according to senior sources at the Department of Environment.

However, the plans are certain to be fiercely resisted by councillors - many of them members of Fine Gael - as well as residents who fear loss of local control.

Some of the councils slated to be scrapped provide services such as street-cleaning and the allocation of social housing - but many others simply 'lobby' county councils.

Many town councillors are simultaneously members of their local county council too, claiming allowances and expenses from both.

Mr Hogan, already over his plans to introduce water and property charges, has been driving his officials to produce legislation that will radically reform local government and yield significant budget savings.

He will present his plans to Cabinet later this year.

The department wanted to replace the country's 80 town councils with up to 50 district councils but Mr Hogan has told officials to come up with more radical plans.

'The 80 town councils will go and the minister is not in favour of replacing them with yet another layer of local Government,' said a senior source at the department.

'He is of the belief that there are far too many layers of local government. There are far too many councillors and much of the work they do could be done by the larger county councils.

'More radical plans are required to deal with the new financial situation.' Instead of elected politicians, towns will now be administered by county council officials.

The plans of the previous minister, former Green party leader John Gormley, such as establishing a directly elected 'super mayor' in Dublin, have been superseded by the realities of the IMF/EU bailout.

Meanwhile, the county councils themselves could be cut from the current 34 to as few as 22.

Mr Hogan has already announced that the two local authorities in Limerick are to merge into one council for the city and county. …