The powers of the Local Government Board were transferred to the Department of Local Government in 1924. Another early pieces of legislation in the Free State reformed of the poor law system and placing t on a county wide basis. County Boards administered the new system.
Rural District Councils were abolished by the Local Government Act 1925, which transferred their functions of the County Councils. The sanitary services functions were administered through Boards of Health, which also dealt with poor relief. These bodies were ultimately merged into the councils with the advent of the county management system in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The central government was given enhanced powers over local government. Earlier legislation had allowed the central government to abolish and prorogue local bodies which are not performing their functions.
In the 1920s, several councils were dissolved for failure by the central government for failure to perform functions. Commissioners were appointed in their place. Both Dublin and Cork Corporations were dissolved. This increased momentum toward professional management.
The county management system by which professional, full-time officials were in charge of the executive functions of the council, with a much-reduced role for the elected members, was introduced in various cities by separate pieces of legislation between 1929 and 1939. Ultimately, the county management system provided for professional management throughout the state.
Local Appointment Commissions
The Local Appointment of Commissioners was constituted in 1926 to bring some independence into the appointment of higher-level officers. They could use appropriate methods in selection, including examination, as they saw fit. Legislation in the 1940s further increased the powers of the Department of Local Government.
The full local authority franchise was extended in 1935 to the entire population. Every citizen over 21 years was qualified to vote.
The background to many of the principal functions formerly or still exercised by local authorities is set out in other sections of this website.
Formerly, local authorities had a role in relation to agricultural, advisory and educational services through the county committees of agriculture. These functions were transferred to independent bodies in the 1970s. The VEC roles were transferred to the Education and Training Boards in 2012.
See our separate chapters in relation to the background to health legislation. Councils played various public health and private health sectors. The Health Act 1947 provided for the creation of a separate Department of Health. Public health (preventative type) functions were transferred from District Councils to County Councils and boroughs. This applied to preventive measures.
The Health Act 1953 transferred hospitals under health authorities. Eventually health authorities were merged and began to form a separate health service. Ultimately, the Health Act of 1970 established the regional Health Boards, separating local government administration from health. Councillors remained as representatives on the Health Boards until their abolition in the late 1990s and ultimately in the early 2000s with the establishment of the HSE.
Housing & Planning
The housing role of local authorities in providing housing, constructing housing and assisting in housing developed over the first 70 years of the State’s existence and has continued.
A major enhancement of the functions of local authorities was the advent of comprehensive planning and development legislation. Previous planning legislation had remained largely ineffective and non-initiated.
The Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1962 commenced on 1st October 1964 and constituted each County and Urban District Council, Corporations and Borough Councils a planning authority. See the separate section on planning legislation.
Rates & Finance
Until the 1970s, rates on property constituted a significant part of overall taxation. Rates were payable on domestic, agricultural and commercial property. Health and housing were totally removed from the rates in the 1970s.
The Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1978 abolished rates on domestic premises. Powers were provided for charging from services such as charges in 1983 and later removed in 1997.
The system of charge of agriculture rates was held to be unconstitutional in 1984 and has never been replaced.
Through the 1990s, a number of reports investigated the system of local government. The Local Government Act 1991 provided for the general powers of local government, establishment of regional authority and certain other key provisions. Finally, the Local Government Act 2001 consolidated and modernised local government. Further substantial modification took place in 2014-