Local Government Research

Furthering Citizen Engagement in Local Authority Budgetary Processes through Participatory Budgeting In Ireland – Feasibility Study

Enhancing engagement with citizens is at the forefront of our public services at both local and national level. Local authorities are no strangers to citizen engagement, but there is always scope to explore new ways of working and ways to enhance existing processes in order to provide the best possible outcomes for citizens. At the national level, Ireland’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan 2016-2018 commits to increased citizen engagement to improve policies and service delivery.1 One commitment under this plan is to undertake a feasibility study on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary processes. This report was commissioned by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the lead implementing organisation for the commitment, with the support of the County and City Management Association (CCMA) and the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG).

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AS LOCAL SERVICE COORDINATOR Case Study of Ireland’s Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme

This report provides a case study of Ireland’s Age Friendly Cities and Counties (AFCC) Programme to demonstrate the role of local government as local service coordinator. In line with international trends and a shift towards local networked governance (Rhodes, 1996; Stoker, 1998), local authorities have been given greater responsibility for economic and community development and as a result their role as coordinators of local services is increasing.

This trend is reflected in the vision set out for reform of Ireland’s local government system:

Local government will be the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level - leading economic, social and community development, delivering efficient and good value services, and representing citizens and local communities effectively and accountably (Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, 2012, p. 1).
 

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LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: An overview of the economic development role of local authorities in selected jurisdictions

This report examines the role of subnational governments in local economic development. The report provides a brief overview of the current situation in Ireland, identifies international trends, and provides examples of the economic development role of local authorities in other jurisdictions.  The OECD (2013) defines local economic development as “a cross cutting and integrated activity where the physical development of a place is linked to public service, place management, and wider drivers of change such as employment, skills, investment, enterprise, innovation, productivity, quality of life, and positioning” (p. 9). Local government plays a key leadership role in this kind of local integration.

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€300K Have Your Say: Evaluation of South Dublin Co Co. Pilot Participatory Budgeting Exercise

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a process in which the public can participate directly in the allocation of local public
finances. Residents develop project proposals for their local area and vote on shortlisted proposals in order to select
winning projects to be implemented in the area.

South Dublin County Council (SDCC) piloted the first ever PB process in Ireland in 2017 (branded “€300k – Have
Your Say”). SDCC allocated €300,000 to the PB process and selected one of 6 local electoral areas in South Dublin
County by lot in which to pilot the project. The area selected was the Lucan electoral area, which also includes
Palmerstown and Adamstown.

160 ideas were generated at the project proposal stage, through a combination of workshops and online submission
of ideas. These were eventually whittled down to 17 projects which went out for ballot. Over 2,500 ballots were cast
online and in person, and 8 winning projects selected:

  • Playground in Waterstown Park, Palmerstown
  • Feasibility Study for the Restoration of Silver Bridge, Palmerstown
  • Christmas Lights in Lucan Village
  • Planting Native Apple Trees, Lucan Electoral Area
  • Access to Church and Graveyard at Mill Lane, Palmerstown
  • Free Library Book Banks in Public Places – Lucan Electoral Area
  • Multi-Games Wall in Lucan
  • Restoration of King John’s Bridge Griffeen Park – Lucan

The South Dublin County Council “€300k – Have Your Say” PB exercise has been a success and proved very popular.
This is illustrated by the response to a question in the survey of PB participants as to whether they would like to
see the PB process repeated: 94 per cent said they would, and only 6 per cent were against repeating the process.
This report tracks the PB initiative from its start to the selection of the winning projects. The report highlights what
went well and identifies areas for improvement.

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Local and Regional Bodies in Ireland 2012-2016

Using a database of local and regional non-commercial public bodies compiled by the Institute of Public Administration in 2007 as the baseline, this study identified 130 organisations currently in operation in Ireland, reduced from 360 in 2007. Chapter three provides an overview of these organisations and the major changes resulting from the various programmes of reform, alignment and rationalisation that have occurred in the last number of years.

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Re-Shaping Local Government Overview

Drawing lessons from international experience with regard to local government is fraught with difficulties. Different administrations devolve different functions to local government, and systems and practices of government differ. A distinguishing characteristic of local government in Ireland is the relatively limited range of functions undertaken by local authorities. Many local authorities in other OECD countries have responsibility for a much broader range of social services, including primary and secondary education, health, social welfare, care for the elderly and childcare services, public transport, and policing.

The Irish local government reform programme based on Putting People First (Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, 2012), the action programme for local government reform, envisages new roles for local government with the alignment of community and enterprise functions with the local government system; greater impact and involvement in local economic and community development; and for local government to be the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level.

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Service Level Agreement

In the current climate of tighter budgets and pressure on resources, many public sector organizations, including local authorities, are outsourcing services to external organizations under ‘service level contracts.’ Local authorities are providing services to others through service level agreements, as in the case of Irish Water. Service level agreements are also being used internally within organisations, guiding interaction between different sections of the organisation such as between central support services and delivery units.

Therefore, local authorities are both commissioners and suppliers when it comes to service level agreements. In this report we examine the nature of service level agreements, including the advantages and disadvantages involved in their implementation. A number of examples are highlighted, including references to good practice templates.

The report is primarily targeted at those local authority staff who are not particularly familiar with or aware of service level agreements. It is intended as a short, general introduction to the subject.

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Capability and Competency Requirements in Local Government

This report examines the current situation and expected future requirements of local government with regard to the skills and capacity needed in the sector. The changing role and functions of local government, combined with the changing people profile of the local government sector, provides the context within which capacity and competency requirements are framed.

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Using fees and charges – cost recovery in local government

This report identifies three key issues to be addressed concerning cost recovery: (a) setting cost recovery policy and principles; (b) capturing, monitoring and reviewing the cost of services; and (c) fee and charge collection and enforcement. Questions that local authorities should consider under each heading when developing their cost recovery options are outlined, together with recommendations as to how these questions should be addressed.

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Strategic Collaboration in Local Government

For the purpose of this paper, the focus is on strategic collaboration, which Norris-Tirrell and C lay (2010:2) define as ‘an intentional, collective pproach to address public problems or issues through building shared knowledge, designing innovative solutions, and forging consequential change. When used strategically, collaboration produces positive impacts, stakeholders committed to policy or program change, and strengthened capacity of individuals and organizations to effectively work together.’

While it is noted that resource sharing is not a new concept as local government organisations have been working together and sharing resources for many years, at a time of fiscal challenge such as the present it is useful to think more strategically about collaboration.

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