All Things Ireland – Gender flipped chambers, awards for Louth’s Libraries and new funding calls

Welcome to All Things Ireland and dive into the week of local government!

Dive into all things local government this week in Ireland. In a week where Councils around Ireland “gender-flipped” chambers to highlight the lack of women representation in local government, this latest edition of all things Ireland brings you the latest reports, updates and policy changes that shape Irish local governance this week.

Updates from LGIU Ireland

This week’s policy briefing:

Briefing – Oireachtas report: Feb to March 2023. This is the latest briefing on parliamentary affairs impacting local government. It includes references to key legislation and issues in the Oireachtas between mid-February and mid-March. It should be of interest to everyone keeping an eye on Irish Parliamentary matters and how they can impact local government. 

Article – See Her Elected and the campaign for equality in 2024 local elections and beyond. As part of LGIU’s coverage for International Women’s Day, Dr Michelle Maher, Programme Manager of See Her Elected, discusses how they are working to increase women’s participation in local government, especially ahead of the 2024 local elections.

Publication – In Conversation with Joan Martin, Chief Executive of Louth County Council. As part of LGIU Ireland’s 2023 series on local government leadership, Thomas and Hannah spoke with Joan Martin, Chief Executive of Louth County Council to find out more about the challenges and opportunities facing Louth, and the local government sector.

Housing and planning

The state of the private rental market: Accommodation availability

Accommodation availability and affordability are the main overarching issues in the private rental market, the first of which is considered in this briefing, which reviews how the market has evolved, factors underlying factors, and questions regarding future prospects. The related issue of rents and affordability will be considered shortly in a further briefing.

This week, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien announced additional measures to increase the supply of social homes to coincide with the phasing out of the winter eviction ban.

With the Simon Communities calling for the extension of the eviction fan in order to prevent further rises in homelessness, the Minister informed Cabinet of plans to give a number of new opportunities to tenants who wish to become homeowners such as requiring a landlord selling a property to first offer it to the tenant on an independent valuation basis for sale and working with AHBs and local authorities to develop a bespoke ‘cost rental’ model for tenants at risk of homelessness.

State investment means student accommodation in DCU will receive €40 million to support the delivery of 405 student accommodation beds. With work ongoing with UCD, Trinity and UCC on a similar project, (you can find more here).

The Property Registration Authority, the Valuation Office, and Ordnance Survey Ireland have merged to become a new organisation called Tailte Éireann. Tailte Éireann will now manage and develop Ireland’s land, property, and location data.

Finally, the Irish Times reported that work on the housing referendum has been delayed “amid disagreement over recommendations for constitutional reform” and the Housing Commission, which has been tasked with developing options for a referendum is yet to agree on a final wording or sign off on its report on the issue.

Updates for local authorities

A shared approach to digitising Local Government?

Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council shares the details of a recent Build to Share (Bts) project which aims to establish an approach to the development of digital systems.

NASA, weather stations, schools and climate action: Innovation at Fingal County Council

To explore how Fingal County Council’s innovation fund works, LGIU Ireland spoke to Executive Engineer, Kevin Vallely, whose funding through the CE Innovation Fund facilitated the award-winning – Weather Stations for Schools project.

What is happiness? Looking at the UK’s happiest region – Northern Ireland

Given that NI is not alone in these islands in benefiting from beautiful landscapes, this LGIU blog post looks at some of the possible drivers to understand what makes NI the happiest place to live in the UK.

Councils around Ireland took the opportunity on International Woman’s Day to highlight the lack of women’s representation in Councils with Sligo, Westmeath, Roscommon, Monaghan, Laois, Leitrim, Galway, Donegal, Cavan and Longford enacting “gender-flipped” Council meetings in association with the WoMeN’s (Western Midlands and Northern) Regional Caucus.

Louth made the headlines this week as Louth Library Service became Ireland’s first library authority to be awarded the Library of Sanctuary status. Recognising Louth’s work on increasing diversity, you can read more from Louth’s acting county librarian Amanda Branigan on RTÉ News.

Cork City Councillors are considering the sale of land to allow a further expansion of Apple’s European HQ.

Fingal County Council opened three public amenities in Swords which represent an investment of €6m in the county capital and “shows Fingal County Council’s commitment to ensuring Swords grows sustainably and develops into a well-designed county capital.” (Fingal Chief Executive AnnMarie Farrelly)

Offaly County Council successfully applied for Technical Assistance towards a Just Transition for Peat Regions under the START European Commission programme which aims to identify and develop communications and stakeholder engagement.

Waterford County Council commenced work on the North Quay’s regeneration project, a €170m investment to “transform” Ireland’s oldest city.

Dr Niall O’Keeffe, Head of Enterprise at the Local Enterprise Office, Cork City, told the Irish Examiner how the biggest challenge facing the LEO is the recruitment and retainment of staff.

In a week where Ireland ranked 6th in Freedom House’s 2023 index, RTÉ reports on how Belarusian politician and opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has been awarded by the Tipperary Peace Convention.

Conference alert!

The Irish Regions European Office (IREO), in conjunction with the three Regional Assemblies of Ireland and the Irish Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions are hosting a conference on “How local authorities can engage in European Programmes” in Dublin, April 19th 2023.

Funding calls

Budget 2023: Facing the challenges of an unstable world

This LGIU summary on the 2023 Budget in Ireland is provided to both our Irish readership and international readers interested in Ireland and the way the country seems to be relatively less impacted by much of the instability of international conditions at the moment.

Government expansion of the “Walks Scheme” will new 70 new walking trails developed across Ireland. Backed up with funding of €2.4 million, local authorities are invited to apply before the deadline application of June 23rd 2023.

556 heritage projects can now benefit from €4.5m worth of funding under the 2023 Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS). Encompassing all 26 counties and including funding of €500,000 for conservation repairs to eligible historic thatched structures the details of grants will be released in the coming weeks.

Infrastructure and transport

Road maintenance (regional and local roads) in Irish local authorities

This is part of our series of briefings dealing with the Local Government Audit Service (LGAS) Value for Money (VFM) Reports. In particular, will zone in on the LGAS’s latest VFM report that was produced in January 2022 entitled, an overview of Road Maintenance (Regional and Local Roads) in Local Authorities.

Cabinet approval now means the DART+ South West rail project can enter the planning system and extend DART trains from Dublin city centre to Hazelhatch and Celbridge train station in Co. Kildare, as part of a wider expansion of DART services in the coming years. Subject to planning permission and final funding arrangements, construction works for DART + South West could commence in 2025.

A EY report commissioned by the National Transport Authority muddies the water over what impact free public travel would have in Ireland. While public transport use would increase by 22%, this increase “is driven by a reduction in walking by 7%, a reduction in cycling by 13% but only a reduction of 1% in car trips, and an increase in total overall trips” (Quotes in the Irish Examiner).

Western Development Commission launches new Report on travel trends in 35 rural towns. With a 300-strong index from 30 different indicators, the best overall score for a town was 195 (65% of the maximum) while the lowest score for a town was 107 (36% of the max). You can find the full report here.

Writing in Rte, Ann O’Brien from the University of Galway writes that while remote working hubs have been touted as a lifeline to rural Ireland, their full potential isn’t being reached. With over 300 rural remote working hubs in operation, Ann outlines the need for a joined-up national approach to developing this infrastructure and offers interesting ways forward to ensure these hubs are at the forefront of rural Ireland’s digital transformation.

Northern Ireland

How are Australian Councils leading the way on Deposit Return Schemes?

Driving a circular economy approach to soft plastic recycling- This blog uncovers how the City of Greater Bendigo’s new partnership with Close the Loop implements a circular economy for recyclable materials.

Global political leaders past and present will arrive in Belfast to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement with Queens University hosting the Dynamics of Peace event on the 17th-19th of April 2023.

Belfast City Council is now seeking to establish a long-term arrangement with an investor/development partner to bring forward sustainable, residential-led regeneration with placemaking, people and connectivity at its heart.

ERSI Research suggests people in the Republic of Ireland have “more positive attitudes” to immigrants than those in Northern Ireland and this could be due to people in Northern Ireland being less likely to have immigrant friends and more likely to feel politically powerless.

Finally, Deloitte’s Regional Crane Survey highlights the role of universities and student accommodation in driving forward Belfast’s construction, with 23 major schemes under construction or completed in Belfast in 2022.

Environment and climate action

What’s on in the local government around the world?

In light of Ireland’s recent focus on directly elected Mayors in Dublin’s Citizen Assembly, this week we look at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi where repeated failures to elect a Mayor over a year-long tussle between the two parties over the administration of the national capital shows the risks posed by hyper-competitive politics (read more from the Times of India here).

Detailed steps for responding to the climate crisis are now available in the Annex of Actions to the Climate Action Plan 2023. Including the MetroLink and Dart+ for 2024 almost 450 actions will see actions across areas such as powering renewables, building better, transforming how we travel, making family farms more sustainable, greening businesses and enterprises and changing our land use.

Actions outlined in the National Peatlands Strategy are now incorporated into a new Implementation Plan which can be found here!

Finally, following 20 years of fieldwork, the Plants Atlas 2020 shows how in Ireland the number of native species is just under half due to habitat loss and degradation continuing to cause biodiversity loss.

Local government learnings from Scotland

So many of the challenges faced by local governments are shared with their colleagues across countries and across continents. To promote the sharing of local government best practices and innovation, this week we look at two new policy areas in Scotland:

Up to standard? The condition of social housing

One of our new policy briefings for the UK looks at the condition of social housing across the four areas of decent homes, damp and mould, fire safety and energy efficiency. Along with data showing the condition of homes, it flags up what more can be done, with examples of work undertaken by local authorities.

What is a Green Freeport?

Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport have been selected by the Scottish and UK governments to become Scotland’s first Green Freeports. (Read more about the Green Freeport requirements here).

 Meeting the challenges of an ageing society

With Councils and the NHS facing major financial challenges, this briefing also highlights the tension between ‘free at the point of delivery’ public services and the dominance in the government of public choice models of service delivery.

You can find all this and more in our new All Things Scotland edition here.

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