Dáil Éireann - Volume 53 - 19 July, 1934
Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 1934—Money Resolution. - Limerick City Management Bill, 1934—Second Stage.
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Boland) Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Boland)
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Boland): I move: That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
The object of this Bill is to make provision for the future government of the City of Limerick on a plan similar to that which has been in operation for some years in Dublin, Cork and Dun Laoghaire. The Bill has been drafted at the request of the County Borough Council with whom the Department have been in close touch. In view of the precedents established by the Cork and Dublin Acts the Government felt justified in acceding to the wishes of the corporation by promoting this Bill as a public measure. I wish to make it quite clear at the outset that the Bill is not being imposed on a reluctant corporation. Before an official inquiry was held into  the management of Limerick, the County Borough Council of their own accord expressed themselves in favour of the managerial system of city government, the consolidation of the rates, the overhaul of their services and the rating of vacant property, all of which have been adopted and embodied in this Bill.
In 1932, in compliance with the request of the improvement committee of the council an investigation was held by a general inspector into the powers, duties and obligations of the Limerick Corporation and the County Borough Board of Health. The inspector's report was transmitted to the corporation for their consideration towards the end of that year, and his recommendations were fully considered by the city council, who had, as I have already stated, expressed themselves in favour of reforms which were, in the main, those which the inspector subsequently recommended. Many of the inspector's recommendations can be carried out without new legislation, but the most important need legislative sanction, and it is in these circumstances that the corporation unanimously asked the Government and the Government have consented to promote this Bill. The new system of government proposed is that with which we are already fairly familiar. It is the system which associates a city manager with the elected council. The manager is given all the functions of the corporation other than those reserved to the council.
First, as to the council; the existing council consists of 40 members, including eight aldermen who are sent to the council by the electors of eight wards. It is proposed to reduce the council to 15 members, including four aldermen and to fix a quorum of seven. The wards will be abolished and the whole city will form one electoral area. In the reduction of the numbers of members and the extension of the electoral division, we are following the Cork precedent. The council will continue to elect a mayor to preside over their meetings and his duties and privileges will not be disturbed. The functions of the council are almost  identical with those of the Dublin City Council—that is, they alone will have power to make the rate, borrow money, make by-laws, bring permissive Acts into force by resolution, promote legislation, appoint representatives on public bodies. They will also have power, subject to the usual provisions, to appoint, suspend or remove the manager. There is machinery by which the reserved powers can be extended by an Order of the Minister.
The City Manager will be appointed by the council on the recommendation of the Local Appointments Commissioners. He will also act as town clerk, that office being at present vacant. As some time may elapse before such an appointment could be made, a temporary manager can be nominated by the Minister to hold office pending the permanent appointment. The usual obligations will be laid on the manager with regard to furnishing information to the mayor, attending meetings, advising the council, planning works which the council wish to have executed, and controlling and supervising the staff. He will act by signed orders, of which a record will be kept. All the existing funds and rates, except the contract water rate, will be abolished, and a new consolidated fund, to be called the municipal fund, and a new consolidated rate, to be called the municipal rate, will be established. At present, Limerick has five rates—the improvement rate, the borough rate, water rate, general purposes rate, and poor rate. The incidence of each of the existing rates is not identical. The borough rate is assessable on the full value of all rateable property. The general purposes rate is not assessable on the whole valuation of arable land or meadow—one-third part only of the net value is taken. The incidence of the improvement rate is the same as that of the general purposes rate. In order to preserve the existing exemptions as nearly as possible, we propose a flat municipal rate on three-fifths of the valuation in the case of land and one-third of every half-rent, that is where the landlord is liable to pay poor rate  on half the rent by reason of the property being exempt as being of a charitable or public nature.
In 1914 rates amounted to 11/2 in the £. As in other cities a marked upward movement set in in 1919-20 and in 1921-22 they were 27/2 in the £. Except in one year, 1922-23, they have remained above a pound since and last year were 31/10 including water rate. In connection with these high rates it must be remembered that property in Limerick has not been generally valued for a great many years and the rateable valuation is, therefore, on the low side, which has the effect of increasing the rate. This will be seen if we compare Limerick with Waterford, the county borough next in point of size. Limerick's population is 48 per cent greater than Waterford's but the valuation is not quite 8 per cent more, Waterford having been revalued about ten years ago. The high poundage rate must, therefore, be attributed in some degree to the obsolete valuation. Vacant premises will be rated as in Dublin—that is the rates will be assessed on the owner but the corporation will be given power to make a refund of half if the house cannot be let to a suitable tenant or is unoccupied for repairs or alterations.
Poor relief has been one of the principal factors in the increase of the rate. In this respect Limerick is in a peculiar and rather unfortunate position. When the old poor law unions were abolished the parts of Limerick Union that were in the counties of Limerick and Clare were separated from the city, which was left with a workhouse and staff much larger than it needed and the area of charge was restricted to the city. Limerick county, having once cut itself off from the city and provided its own institutions, is opposed to anything in the nature of a joint scheme. The matter has been at a deadlock for years and Limerick remains the only county borough which is not united with part of the adjoining county for poor relief purposes. This year the Government have taken over the relief of able-bodied persons, getting only a fixed contribution from certain towns. Limerick will benefit by this arrangement by a reduction in  the charge for home assistance, the heaviest item in the poor relief budget.
The poor law authority in Limerick is called the Board of Health, which is composed wholly of members of the council. It is proposed to dissolve the body altogether and have its duties carried out by the City Manager. Limerick had experience a few years ago of the management of public assistance by a commissioner and no complaint was made during the inquiry of the manner in which the business was done. We may, therefore, confidently look to some improvement in the administration of poor relief when it is placed in the hands of an official who will have direct responsibility for it.
It is also proposed to abolish the Gas Committee set up under the Limerick Corporation Act, 1878, and the Tuberculosis Committee. In Limerick the gas undertaking is the property of the corporation. The inspector found the management and financial position of the undertaking far from satisfactory. The powers of the committee will be transferred to the corporation and will be exercised by the manager. We have not attempted to deal with the question of the extension of the city but the Bill provides machinery by which application by the corporation for extension can be examined and a provisional order obtained. Before such extension can take place, a local inquiry will have to be held and a provisional order made and confirmed by an Act. The position of the officers and servants of the corporation will remain unchanged except that they will be under the control and supervision of the manager.
Two sections have been inserted in the Bill dealing with the superannuation of employees who are not classed as officers. The first of these sections, No. 32, is designed to meet the cases of old employees who are past their labour and who cannot be pensioned under the law as it stands. Employees, if they have 20 years' service, are given the benefit of the provisions of Section 53 of the Local Government Act of 1925 and this power can be exercised within a period of two years or longer if the Minister, on the application  of the corporation, extends the period. Section 33 deals with the superannuation of employees of the gas undertaking. For the purposes of the Local Government Act, 1925, as applied, employees of the gas undertaking will be allowed to reckon their period of employment as employment by the corporation.
The Bill is largely an adaptation of existing law to the circumstances of Limerick. It contains no novel principle, and so far as it goes we believe it will meet with the approbation of the corporation, and I hope on that ground it will commend itself to the Dáil.
General Mulcahy General Mulcahy
General Mulcahy: I only wish to say that as, perhaps, there may not be so many speeches made on this Bill it might have been a graceful thought if members of the Fianna Fáil Party had appeared, while the Minister was reading, with a lighted candle in their left hands, singing a hymn of renunciation of some of the views they had on previous occasions, and maybe even if they went as far as giving me the salute.
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: Which salute? The Deputy ought to blow himself out.
Mr. MacEntee Mr. MacEntee
Mr. MacEntee: Carrying his own bouquets with him.
Mr. T. Kelly Mr. T. Kelly
Mr. T. Kelly: I simply wish to say that I protest. I cannot give my acquiescence to any Bill establishing a managerial system in any city in Ireland, having regard to my experience of it for the last three years. I think that a democratic government is the proper government for the cities, and I do not think that the managerial system will work out there any better than it has done in Dublin. I think members of the corporation will find on experience that it is a mistake. You might appoint a manager and let him have sole charge of affairs, without any corporation, but so far as my experience goes this mixed control is unsatisfactory. I cannot, therefore, give acquiescence to any Bill which establishes a managerial system.
Mr. T.J. Murphy Mr. T.J. Murphy
 Mr. T.J. Murphy: I am sorry that the representative of this Party who would be more conversant with the details and the history of this matter is not here. Like Deputy Kelly, I should like to put it to the Minister that he ought to be very careful before putting the administration of home assistance into the hands of an official, as is contemplated under this Bill. I am not in a position to say so definitely, but I think the fact is that when an official had charge of the administration of home assistance in Limerick for some time previously the picture was not always the peaceful one which the Minister has described, and that there were very many complaints as to the administration of that service in his hands, and, furthermore, if I remember rightly, the official on that occasion instituted hard labour tests in that area as a qualification for home assistance. As one representing County Cork. I do know that the managerial outlook in regard to home assistance is anything but humane, and I advise the Minister and his officials to watch this matter very carefully. I am not in a position to deal with this matter other than from that point of view. It is a principle in the Bill that I dislike and I dislike it in any Bill. I believe there are no supermen in this world, not to say in this country, and, like Deputy Kelly. I feel that the proper and humane administration of this service ought to rest in the hands of local representatives. Beyond that, I have nothing more to say on the Bill.
Mr. D. Bourke Mr. D. Bourke
Mr. D. Bourke: I wish to state that the citizens of Limerick are anxious for the managerial system, and the Corporation of Limerick called on the Minister to introduce this Bill. I think the members of the Dáil, outside the Limerick Deputies, ought to be quite satisfied with that. The citizens are anxious for it.
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: We have had no complaints such as Deputy Murphy has voiced here, and I am quite satisfied that if the manager does not act in a humane manner—I have no reason to believe that he will not, and I hope he will not—and if representations are  made by responsible people, they will be dealt with by the Minister. I do not expect, however, that they are going to arise, and I do not think there is any reason to presume they will.
Question put and agreed to.
Mr. Bourke Mr. Bourke
Mr. Bourke: Could the Minister take all the stages now? The citizens are most anxious to have the Bill passed as soon as possible.
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: There are some slight amendments required, and we could not take all the stages now.
General Mulcahy General Mulcahy
General Mulcahy: Otherwise, I should love to see the Minister swallowing all the stages together.
Mr. Boland Mr. Boland
Mr. Boland: I would not be any the worse for it. I would not object at all.
Committee Stage ordered for 1st August.
Dáil Éireann 53 Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 1934—Money Resolution. Limerick City Management Bill, 1934—Second Stage.