Increased Council tax powers demand more democracy

13th February, 2014

Increased Council tax powers demand more democracy

Joe O'Brien promoting PB at public meeting in Skerries

Joe O’Brien promoting PB at public meeting in Skerries

While it didn’t happen this year I understand that the local property tax will go back to the Councils from where it is collected in future years. This is our money as taxpayers and now that we are paying this additional tax I believe we should have a greater say in terms of how it is spent in our locality. What is more, after May Fingal County Council will have the power to raise local property tax by 15%, this is a huge power for the Council to have and I believe this increased power should be counterbalanced by more power for the people. Participatory Budgeting can deliver this people power in an exciting and refreshing way – by allow citizens of a locality to decide on how a proportion of the Council budget is spent. To act as a counter balance to the Council’s power to raise property tax by 15% I believe a small percentage of the Council budget should be spent by Participatory Budgeting methods. This cannot be done immediately which is why I ask the Council to start plans to run small pilot PB projects across the county to inform and introduce people to the process.

Speaking at the meeting an expert in Participatory Budgeting (PB) from the UK, Davy Jones, explained that PB had taken off in the UK: Durham County Council in the UK has facilitated the participation of over 10,000 people in Participatory Budgeting events. Durham has recently held 13 PB events with on average £40,000 of public money been allocated by the public at each event, with an average attendance of 800 per meeting.

Mr. O’Brien followed on by saying that: the beauty of PB is that it engages people in their local community who would previously have not been very involved. This is why I think Fingal should take the lead on this nationally and be the first Council in Ireland to pilot Participatory Budgeting. We have a lot of new estates in the likes of Balbriggan, Lusk, Rush, Skerries and even in the smaller villages of Garristown, the Naul and Ballyboughal where some people have yet to fully engage with the wider community. PB could be one way to build even stronger and wider community spirit in these communities.

For more information contact: Joe O’Brien at 087-9608540 or joefingalgreen@gmail.com