‘’Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan must move rapidly to clarify the future of towns in Laois Offaly under his proposals for reform’’ RENUA Ireland leader John Leahy has warned.

Mr Leahy said; ‘’the current vague proposals are not clear about the future of key towns such as Portlaoise, Mountmellick, Tullamore, Birr and Edenderry.

This, following on from Project Ireland 2040 and the reduction of Laois county councillors from 25 down to 19 and Offaly from 21 to 19 is the third strike against Laois Offaly by this government.

The Minister should note that RENUA Ireland believes in a policy of ‘’three strikes and you are out’’.

We do not know what Minister John Paul Phelan has against Laois Offaly or whether Minister Charlie Flanagan knows if Laois Offaly exists but this policy of less than benign neglect, which includes the weird loss of Portarlington to Kildare, must cease.

Laois Offaly deserves a Fair Deal in local government’’.

Mr Leahy also warned that

‘’Should he discover Laois Offaly Minister John Paul Phelan must give his new town councils real powers in planning or they run the risk of turning into sham councils.

I do welcome the Ministers decision to restore the old town council with twenty-eight new town districts.

But, the Ministers inability to go the whole way by providing his new town councils with full planning powers sets much of his good work at naught.

It is utterly illogical to provide these new town councils with funding for roads and the capacity to plan for town development but to refuse full planning powers is like sending a man off to build a house without any bricks.

The Minister would be wise to slip the snares set by custom house bureaucrats and go the whole way.

That said RENUA Ireland welcomes his progressive stance on local government and his wise decision to reverse the utterly regressive abolition by Phil Hogan to abolish town councils

There is no better example of the economics of penny wise pound foolish.

RENUA Ireland believes government is always more efficient if it is closely monitored by those closest to it; local citizens’’.

Mr Leahy also warned;

‘’The much-needed return of these democratic bodies will not be worth a penny candle unless accompanied by real powers.

The new councils need real independence; not some custom house led variant of Home Rule.

If these new councils are merely given powers more appropriate to a talking shop this will only serve to bring local government into further disrepute

Under the minister’s current proposals local town districts will not have the power to adjudicate on the frontage of the local town shop

This is a recipe for futility’’

Mr Leahy also called on the Minister to ‘’examine the governance of smaller towns and villages’’.

He warned;

‘Villages and small towns are the neglected children of planning and local government.

Their Cinderella status must end.

In this regard the Minister and government must also clarify his plans for small Laois Offaly villages such as

Many of these are areas of great scenic beauty and are national tourist attractions in their own right.

In looking at where we want to be in thirty-years’ time we must protect their authentic communal identity.

We must ensure that throughout Ireland the phenomenon of urban sprawl is avoided, and that growth is sensitive to maintaining the identity of small adjoining villages.

Roy Keane famously said, ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’.

We must avoid that fundamental error by deciding to do what works best rather than what is easiest’’.