A NEW policy introduced by Limerick City and County Council allowing only one politician to make representations for social housing on an applicant’s behalf has been described as ‘appalling’.
Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan told last week’s council meeting that she considered the move as undemocratic and one that sets a very bad precedent.
“The Council are the housing service provider but this policy suggests that it is councillors, TDs and senators that provide the service. It is an appalling policy and I am opposed to it in all its forms,” she declared.
However, it transpired that Cllr O’Donovan was on her own in her views on the new policy.
Councillors were in full support of the draft policy, which was adopted at the meeting.
Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin told Cllr O’Donovan that she had the wrong end of the stick and was inaccurate in her remarks.
Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan took the view that with numerous politicians being asked to help on individual cases, they were “running around like chickens”.
“I consider my representational role as very important. People come to me, often in dire straits, and they need help in how best to engage with services,” Cllr Sheehan explained.
“Our role is vital. We act as conduit.”
He said that staff in the Council’s Housing Support Services are overstretched and under-resourced.
“Councillors are first point of contact. People come to us in the worst of circumstances and I don’t want to see that role diminished. I consider this a very good, useful, and fair reform.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Collins welcomed the streamlining of the policy.
“This will stop wasting TDs and senators valuable time, and more importantly, the time of the council staff,” Cllr Collins suggested.
Fine Gael councillor John Sheehan also welcomed the new policy and pointed out to Cllr O’Donovan that they have seen the erosion of councillors powers in recent times.
“All we are doing is facilitating a representation, we are not influencing anything,” he said.
“It is about time we fight back and be proud of the job we do,” he added.
Former Mayor Daniel Butler (FG) also supported the one-rep housing policy, which came into effect at Limerick City and County Council after its adoption on Monday.
“We can influence policy, that’s our job, but we can’t influence decisions.
“Take the assumption that it’s easy to access services — it’s not. Many people come to us in a vulnerable state and they need us to hold their hands and make the system more efficient. It is part of our jobs as they can find the process very difficult,” Cllr Butler said.
Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin told the council executive that he thought the one-rep policy was always an accepted practice.
“I thought this was already the policy. There’s no point duplicating the work,” he added