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Ireland

Increase Citizen Participation at Local Level. Pilot Approach to Implementation of Public Participation Networks (IE0018)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland, First Action Plan, 2014-16

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DEC&LG)

Support Institution(s): Community and Voluntary Group (not specific)

Policy Areas

Private Sector, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2014-2016

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

The Report of the Working Group on Citizen Engagement with Local Government proposes that a “Public Participation Network (PPN)” be developed in each local authority area (engaging in and within municipal districts and at the County/City level) to enable the public to take an active formal role in relevant policy making and oversight activities of the Local Authority. PPN structures will be put in place across local government during 2014.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2.4: Citizen Participation in Local Governments (2.4.1, 2.4.2, 2.4.3)

2.4.1 – Pilot Approach to Implementation of Public Participation Networks

2.4.2 – Provide legal base for public participation framework in local government

2.4.3 – Undertake a feasibility study on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary process

Commitment Text:

Action 2.4.1 – Pilot Approach to Implementation of Public Participation Networks - The Report of the Working Group on Citizen Engagement with Local Government proposes that a “Public Participation Network (PPN)” be developed in each local authority area (engaging in and within municipal districts and at the County/City level) to enable the public to take an active formal role in relevant policy making and oversight activities of the Local Authority. PPN structures will be put in place across local government during 2014;

Action 2.4.2 – Provide legal base for public participation framework in local government: Regulations will be made and guidelines will be issued by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to provide for the adoption by each local authority of a framework for public participation, which will enable local authorities to take all appropriate steps to consult with and promote effective participation of local communities in local government;

Action 2.4.3 – Undertake a feasibility study on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary process: Recognizing that the elected members of a local authority have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions of the authority, which includes adopting the annual budget, request the Members’ Association and the County and City Managers’ Association to undertake a feasibility study in 2015, in consultation with key stakeholders, on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in the local authority budgetary processes.

Responsible institution: Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Supporting institution(s):

Action 2.4.1: Community and Voluntary Group (not specific)

Action 2.4.2: Local authorities (not specific)

Action 2.4.3: The Members’ Association and the County and City Managers’ Association (not specific)

Start date: 1 July 2014                                                                      End date: 31 December 2015

 
 

Commitment Aim

This commitment seeks to promote civic participation in decision making at the local level. This is particularly important in Ireland where 40% of the population live in rural areas, making local government significant to the everyday lives of many citizens.[Note 24: For a link to World Bank data on the rural population of Ireland, see bit.ly/1nrOnT0 (last accessed September 24, 2015)] To promote participation at the local level, Action 2.4.1 seeks to introduce Public Participation Networks (PPNs). According to the Working Group Report on Citizen Engagement with Local Government, the PPNs aim to help the public take an active role in the policy-making and oversight activities of the Local Authority’s areas of responsibility.[Note 25: Working Group Report on Citizen Engagment with Local Governments http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/Community/CommunityVoluntarySupports/FileDownLoad%2C36779%2Cen.pdf ] Hence the commitment seeks to set in place the civil society structures at the local level that allow CSOs and voluntary organizations (VOs) the opportunity to participate in the PPNs. Action 2.4.2 is aimed at producing regulation that would formally adopt PPNs in all local governments by providing a legal base for public participation in local politics. Action 2.4.3 seeks to bring citizens into the local budgetary processes.

Status

Midterm

2.4.1: Complete

2.4.2: Substantial

2.4.3: Not started

As reported in the IRM progress report, the pilot stage to implement PPNs was completed in the first year of the action plan. This included PPNs in four Local Authority Areas: Galway, Tipperary, South Dublin and Carlow, reflecting that substantial effort was made on providing the legal basis for PPN framework in local government. Nevertheless, the feasability study on means of enabling citizen engagement in local authority budgetary processes was not started in the first year.

End of term

2.4.1: Complete

2.4.2: Substantial

2.4.3: Not started

Pilot implementation of the PPNs (Action 2.4.1) was completed in year one of the action plan and since then, PPNs have been rolled out in all local authority areas. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government anounced a funding mechanism to support the PPN.[Note 26: http://communityworkireland.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/CWC-Update-July-2015.pdf] With regard to the legal framework for public participation at the local level (Action 2.4.2), the government’s end of term report states that steps remain to be implemented, including making a firm set of regulation on PPNs and setting up an oversight group to monitor implementation and securing resources to ensure effectiveness of said implementation. Local authorities, in this regard, have been in communication with all potential stakeholders to increase awareness of joining PPNs.[Note 27: For more detailed  information on how PPNs work, please see bit.ly/1PuHfv0] In May 2016, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government released a PPN User Guide[Note 28: PPN User Guide https://www.socialjustice.ie/sites/default/files/attach/civil-society-article/4398/ppnuserguidev1may16.pdf ] and a publication of Frequently Asked Questions[Note 29: PPN FAQ https://www.clarecoco.ie/community/information-for-residents/community-contacts/public-participation-network/ppn-frequently-asked-questions-20279.pdf ] to support implementation of the PPN. Nevertheless, Action 2.4.3 – to perform a study on means of enabling citizen engagement in budgetary processes - had still not been started at the end of year two of the action plan. The government has nevertheless indicated in its end of term report that it is in the process of doing so.

Did it open government?

Access to information: Did not change

Civic participation: Marginal

Public accountability: Did not change

PPNs are in their initial phase and their effect on policy making is still unknown. Therefore, it is difficult to conclude that Actions 2.4.1 and 2.4.2 have had more than a marginal effect on opening government practices. So far, the government has taken basic steps to support the PPNs like allocating funds and creating guidelines. According to the guidelines, Local Authorities can engage PPNs to seek feedback, input and participation in decision making on policies. PPNs function as the only source where Local Authorities must select “All environmental, social inclusion, community and voluntary representatives on their Boards and Committees.” The guidelines also indicate that eligibility to participate in PPNs is determined by requirements such as registration, physical address and more established governance structures. Experts Arceneaux and Butler, in their article for Public Administration Review Journal argue that even though local government committees that allow citizens to provide input may offer a valuable tool for policy makers, “they suffer from low participation and tend to underrepresent economically disadvantaged citizens.”[Note 30: Arcenaux K and D. Butler, 2016. How Not to Increase Participation in Local Government: The Advantages of Experiments When Testing Policy Interventions. Public Administration Review, Vol 76.1, January, page 131

]

Considering the concerns raised by experts on underepresentation and the current guidelines, the current roll out of PPNs, if not appropriately supported with resources and guidance, might compromise their integrity by favoring more structured CSOs possibly excluding informal volunteer groups. Also, it may slow down decision-making process while PPNs adopt said guidelines and regularization requirements to operate.

It should be noted that the OGP value reference for 2.4.3 is unclear, as also reported in the IRM midterm report; moreover, because it does not prescribe any real legislative change with a law and has not even got off the ground, one can conclude that Action 2.4.3 has not changed government practice toward access to information, civic participation or public accountability.

Carried forward?

Commitment 7 of the Irish Government’s new action plan for 2016-18 seeks to perform a ‘feasibility study (that) will inform and guide the next steps on how further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary processes can be facilitated,’ which is like Action 2.4.3 on National Action Plan 2014-16. Further, building on action 2.4.1 of this action plan, Commitment 2 of the new 2016-18 plan seeks to establish a fully representative PPN advisory group to support the development of PPNs. Considering the lack of progress throughout the last two years, the IRM researcher recommends continuing with this initiative.


Commitments

  1. Promote Transparent Climate Policy Development

    IE0031, 2016, Environment and Climate

  2. Support Public Participation Networks

    IE0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  3. Improve Access to Justice: Reducing Costs

    IE0033, 2016, Judiciary

  4. Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons

    IE0034, 2016, Judiciary

  5. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners

    IE0035, 2016, Justice

  6. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General

    IE0036, 2016, Capacity Building

  7. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: Youth

    IE0037, 2016, Marginalized Communities

  8. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0038, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Improve Access to Government Services Through Technology

    IE0039, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Participatory Budgeting

    IE0040, 2016, Participation in Budget Processes

  11. Improve Transparency of Government Service Providers

    IE0041, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  12. Enhance Fiscal Transparency

    IE0042, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  13. Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures

    IE0043, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  14. Develop an Open Data Strategy 2017-2020

    IE0044, 2016, E-Government

  15. Invest in Data Infrastructure That Will Result in Better Open Data

    IE0045, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  16. Starred commitment Develop a Code of Practice for the Governance of Charities

    IE0046, 2016,

  17. Starred commitment Public Sector Standards Bill

    IE0047, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Establish a Register of Beneficial Ownership

    IE0048, 2016, Asset Disclosure

  19. Establishment of Best Practice Standards for Open Data

    IE0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  20. Establishment of Ireland’S Open Data Platform

    IE0002, 2014, E-Government

  21. Undertake an Audit of Key Datasets for Publication

    IE0003, 2014, Open Data

  22. Establish a Roadmap for the Open Data and an Evaluation Framework to Provide Assessment of the Ongoing Open Data

    IE0004, 2014, Open Data

  23. Establishment of an Open Data Ireland Governance Board (ODIGB) and Steering and Implementation Group (SIG) for Open Data Ireland

    IE0005, 2014, Open Data

  24. Signing up to the G8 Open Data Charter

    IE0006, 2014, Open Data

  25. Implementing Open Data

    IE0007, 2014, Open Data

  26. Improve Computer Literacy Through Implementation of Proposed New Digital Strategy for Schools

    IE0008, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Review National and International Practice to Develop Revised Principles / Code for Public Engagement/Consultation with Citizens, Civil Society and Others by Public Bodies.

    IE0009, 2014, Public Participation

  28. Starred commitment Hold Referenda Arising from the Recommendations of the Constitutional Convention

    IE0010, 2014, Gender

  29. Starred commitment Ethics Reform

    IE0011, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  30. Strengthening Freedom of Information - Implement the Code of Practice for Freedom of Information (FOI).

    IE0012, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  31. Reform of FOI

    IE0013, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Starred commitment Regulation of Lobbying

    IE0014, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  33. Starred commitment Encourage, Protect and Raise Awareness of Whistleblower Duties and Protections

    IE0015, 2014, Whistleblower Protections

  34. Measures to Increase Citizen Participation in Decision Making on Policy and Legislative Proposals. Systemic Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of Draft Bills

    IE0016, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  35. Develop and Deliver Access to Environmental Information (AIE) Training Module for Public Officials

    IE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. Increase Citizen Participation at Local Level. Pilot Approach to Implementation of Public Participation Networks

    IE0018, 2014, Private Sector

  37. Provide Legal Base for Public Participation Framework in Local Government

    IE0019, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Undertake a Feasibility Study on Possible Means of Enabling Further Citizen Engagement in Local Authority Budgetary Processes

    IE0020, 2014, Participation in Budget Processes

  39. Support Children and Young People as Citizens. Develop, Finalise and Publish the First Government Strategy on Children and Young People's Participation in Decision-Making.

    IE0021, 2014, Capacity Building

  40. Maximise Participation and Understanding of Young People in Civic Life

    IE0022, 2014, Capacity Building

  41. Development of an ICT Strategy

    IE0023, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  42. Data Sharing and Governance Bill

    IE0024, 2014, E-Government

  43. Public Services Card

    IE0025, 2014, E-Government

  44. Single Customer View

    IE0026, 2014, E-Government

  45. Local Government Portal

    IE0027, 2014, E-Government

  46. New Local Enterprise Offices

    IE0028, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  47. Review and Enhancement of Complaints Procedures and Using Feedback to Improve Services Across the Public Service; a Review of Citizen Complaints Procedures Will Be Undertaken.

    IE0029, 2014, Public Participation

  48. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0030, 2014, Public Participation