On Friday 7th of June, people across the country will elect 949 councillors to sit on 31 local authorities across Ireland.

Local authorities have a significant impact on business conditions and cost competitiveness in their locality through commercial rates and other charges. Every local authority in Ireland is involved in housing, planning, licensing and inspections. Decisions taken over the coming five years will have major ramifications on all aspects of economic and social development across the country.

949 councillors to sit on 31 local authorities across Ireland.

Why it matters to business

Local business, not Central Government, is the primary source of income for local authorities -approximately €1 out of every €3 each local authority spends comes directly from local business.

Local authorities also have a formal role in economic development. This stretches from directly influencing the local cost of doing business, creating safe and attractive town and city centres, sustainable neighbourhoods and communities, mobility, and transport policies, improving accessibility and connectivity and promoting the Experience Economy.

Business has a massive stake in how local government works. Local authorities and local business must work together to deliver better functioning, sustainable dynamic cities, towns and regions. The response at local level will determine the success of how Ireland will address key challenges from housing and digitalisation through to the transition to the net zero economy and society.

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€1 out of every €3 comes directly from local business.

Ibec Policy Priorities for the Local Elections 2024

These are 10 priorities for local government that matter to business:

We need the right mix of housing in the right areas to meet our growing population, in accordance with suitable and sustainable development practices. This requires an increase in serviceable zoned land and the provision of necessary utilities for both private and state-supported housing. Local authorities must play a greater role in direct housing provision, including through Modern Methods of Construction, so that overall, the State can deliver 20,000 social, affordable, and cost-rental units annually.

The country is facing increasing capacity constraints which will need to be addressed locally if we are to underpin ambitions in making Ireland a better place to live and work. We must plan for growth through the revised National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan process, tackling infrastructure deficits and by delivering an adequate supply of commercial and residential property. Critical skills and resources must be in place (e.g. architects, planners, engineers, public procurement etc), as well as encouraging a greater pooling and sharing of skills between local authorities.

Commercial rates are a form of local taxation, mostly to fund services that benefit the broader community. Reducing the burden of commercial rates would make it easier of business, particularly those in low margin sectors, to create jobs, and to support essential services, such as childcare.

Central Government, the Local Property Tax and service charges must make a larger contribution to local authority finances. Local authorities must work with Central Government to put local authorities on a more sustainable financial footing.

Many urban centres were neglected during the pandemic and have yet to fully recover. We must continue to support the Town Centre First policy to create vibrant, attractive town centres that are the service, social, cultural, and recreational hubs for the local community. It is also critical that we provide for a ‘City Centre First’ policy because there is no specific government-backed approach to dealing with the challenges and opportunities facing our city centres and connected suburban areas.

Local authorities must prioritise infrastructure that supports regional accessibility, increase the range of public transport options, roll-out active and sustainable travel schemes, and support enhanced global connectivity through our ports and airports. Investment programmes should support the provision and maintenance of quality footpaths and dedicated cycling infrastructure. This investment is necessary to ensure that every aspect of a commuter’s journey is accessible and safe.

Delivering our climate action targets will require leadership by local authorities to ensure the necessary enabling infrastructure being in place. Local authorities must champion densification if we are to address parallel issues such as the cost of living and sustainability. Public spaces must be green, accessible, and resilient to the changing climate.

Local authorities have a formal role in economic development. They must support the requirements of traditional and emerging business sectors to boost employment, attract people and invest in quality of life to retain critical talent. Local authorities must champion digitalisation and digital infrastructure to enable the development of smart cities and smart regions, as well as enhanced public services. Finally, local authorities through the local enterprise office network will have a key role in supporting entrepreneurship and the growth of founder-led enterprises.

Tackle local authority-imposed costs on the hospitality, tourism, and retail businesses, ensure planning regulations are conducive to outdoor dining and promote the night-time economy. A strong Experience Economy would benefit urban regeneration and will create vibrancy in town centres.

Work with An Garda Síochána, Government, business and other stakeholders on effective local measures to increase public safety. Invest in safety and security measures to boost the attractiveness of our urban centres, including public realm enhancements that support a safe, night-time economy.

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