The Secretary for Local Government then moved the adoption of Clauses 1, 2 and 3, viz.:—
1. "The clean break—The Local Government Department to function on the lines of the Custom House."
2. "All Local Bodies to sever connection with Custom House on a date to be fixed, and to recognise thereafter the Local Government Department of An Dáil as the agency to supervise and control these bodies."
3. "In order for the Local Government Department to exercise the duties of controlling and supervising, a staff is necessary, as follows:—
a. Four Inspectors—one being a Medical Officer and one Engineer.
b. Ten Clerks.
c. Nineteen Auditors."
Clause No. 3 involved an annual cost of £23,000. Though the Secretary for Finance had said that the money was not available, he submitted that it was unreasonable to expect a Department like that proposed to function unless provision was made for expenditure. Due consideration should be given to the estimate submitted. The position he had taken up was justifiable.
FIONAN LYNCH (Kerry South) seconded the motion.
J. MACENTEE (Monaghan South) said that the Local Authorities should be asked to finance the Local Government Department, as its main duty would be to protect the interests of the ratepayers. The number of those bodies who had already pledged allegiance to Dáil Éireann was 250, and the average contribution from each would amount to only £100. He moved as an amendment:—
"That the various Local Authorities who have pledged allegiance to An Dáil be asked to provide the sum required for the financing of the Local Government Department upon whatever basis may be found most equitable."
W. SEARS (Mayo South) seconded the amendment, and suggested that the valuation be taken as the basis in each case.
J.J. CLANCY (Sligo North) said that if they were going to set up a Department of the Dáil it was not for the Local Bodies to finance it. He thought it would be a bad precedent to ask Local Bodies to pay for a Department which would have to supervise these Local Bodies themselves.
W. SEARS (Mayo South) said that in the procedure of the English Government they made the Public Bodies pay for the audit. They would be only asking the Public Bodies to contribute to their own supervision.
The SECRETARY FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT could not accept the amendment. The Local Bodies were sufficiently taxed already. They would have first of all to provide the sums withheld. That was a big price for their loyalty and a sufficiently severe test without their having to bear an additional tax for the upkeep of the Department which would be responsible for their supervision. He was satisfied with the figures submitted by the Commission. He thought that the Commission was well qualified for its work, being composed of men who were accustomed to the working of Local Government. The estimate they had submitted was entitled to respect. As the sum was very large considering the present state of their finances, he hoped they would be able to come to some agreement about it.
The SECRETARY FOR FINANCE said that nobody would accept the estimate for £23,000 as it stood. Though the appointment of nineteen Auditors had been recommended, no provision had been made in the statement for the customary audit fees paid by Local Bodies. If each local Council were to pay an audit fee of even two guineas it would amount to something between £400 and £500. That sum should have been included in the estimate. In any event the present estimate should only cover the period to the end of December next, and the sum of £5,000 would be sufficient for that period. The suggestion that the Department be financed by the Local Bodies was wrong from every point of view. It would make the Department subsidiary to the Local Bodies, any one of which could stop payment at any time, and thereby weaken the control of the Department.
J. MACENTEE (Monaghan South) said that the supervision of Local Bodies was directed towards safeguarding local interests. He believed that the local ratepayers should relieve the Dáil of the financial burden of this supervision. They would be well repaid in the check that would be exercised over expenditure.
The amendment was put, and on a division was lost by 26 votes to 2.
The original motion was then put and carried.