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*Cllr PJ Ryan, Cathaoirleach, Clare County Council, and Liam Conneally, Deputy Chief Executive, Clare County Council; with (back row, l-r) Senior Executive Officers, Morgan Lahiffe (Killaloe MD), Leonore O’Neill (Ennis MD), Jason Murphy (Shannon MD) and John O’Malley (West Clare MD). Photo: Eamon Ward.

AN INITIATIVE for the restructuring of its four Municipal District has seen Clare County Council win a Chambers Ireland 2021 Excellence in Local Government (ELG) Award.

‘Restructuring of Municipal Districts to improve community and economic outcomes’ was the title of the Council’s winning entry. The restructuring initiative involved the realignment of staff structures at MD level in Clare County Council to identify and advance opportunities for economic development and to improve the quality of life of communities in the county.

Under the initiative, a senior staff member (Senior Executive Officer; SEO) was assigned to each of the MDs, and each MD was assigned to a Director of Service.

The overall objectives of the restructuring were to: identify and develop sustainable solutions to enhance the wellbeing and quality of life of local communities; advance opportunities to further drive the economic performance of MDs; exploit funding opportunities to stimulate and support local development; and ensure cross-directorate cohesion on strategies such as the County Development Plan and the Tourism Strategy.

Representatives from the Council were in Council Chamber in Áras Contae an Chláir alongside Mayor of Clare, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) when the awards were livestreamed.

Clare County Council won the award in the category of ‘Initiative through the Municipal Districts’ (sponsored by LGIU Ireland). This award seeks to recognise the impact of initiatives that maximise the contribution of the MD members to local authority effectiveness, particularly in terms of governance, local representation, conduct of council business, community engagement, and economic, social and local development generally.

“This award is a vote of confidence in the MDs, whose staff work closely with the elected councillors to provide services and strive for continuous improvement. The strategic change in Clare County Council has placed new focus on priorities at MD level and has strengthened the role of the councillor. Each MD has collaborated with local councillors to develop local initiatives and ensure close working relationships. I am delighted to accept this honour on behalf of Clare County Council. Thank you to Chambers Ireland and to award sponsor, LGIU,” Cllr Ryan stated.

Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council outlined, “This award is a reflection of the huge, countywide effort of staff and elected members that goes into the provision of services in the MDs. The realignment of staff structures across the MDs was designed to enable Clare County Council to be more responsive and accountable to local needs. MD staff and the elected members work tirelessly year-round to deliver high-quality services on the ground”.

He added, “The MDs are now informing wider policy decisions across the organisation in strategic areas such as housing, planning, environment and water. This impacts local communities, infrastructure development and potential for the MD in terms of attractiveness, business and for those who may wish to live here.”

MDs were introduced under the Local Government Reform Act 2014 as an innovative, county-wide system of governance and local decision-making.

Clare County Council has four MDs of Ennis, Killaloe, Shannon and West Clare. In addition to their new strategic role, the MDs deliver a wide range of services, including local and regional road maintenance; housing applications and housing queries; pre-planning meetings; playgrounds; litter management; public toilet maintenance; provision, maintenance and upgrading of public lighting; street cleaning; traffic management; car parking management; maintenance of car parks; school wardens; town parks and open spaces; and general local maintenance. The ELG Awards, hosted by Chambers Ireland and sponsored by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, highlight the positive impact of local government across Ireland. In total, this year saw 90 projects from 20 local authorities shortlisted as finalists in 16 categories.

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