SIPTU, Fórsa and Connect trade unions have today (Wednesday 9th June) called for increased powers for local government including the ability to lead renewable energy projects, re-establish control of domestic waste collection and use land for the building of public housing. The call at the launch of the second phase of the More Power To You campaign, where trade unions are focusing on the need to empower local government to provide services that reflect the needs of a changing and diverse society. The campaign also seeks a citizens’ assembly to examine the role of local democracy in Ireland, the return of town councils and a a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of water services in the Irish Constitution. SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “Ireland is the lowest in the EU for local government spending. We see the same low ranking for Ireland in a report looking at the autonomy of local government within 39 OECD countries. In this examination of the size and structure of local authorities, the balance of power between the administrative and elected parts of local government, the range of functions for which it has responsibility and, crucially, its financial autonomy, it was found that only Moldova has a less democratic form of local government.” Fórsa National Secretary, Peter Nolan, said: “The pandemic has revealed how much the State relies on local authorities. The capacity of local authorities to respond to an expanded role, in crisis conditions, has been widely demonstrated. Now is a good time to look to the future of local democracy and plan a better, more ambitious model that responds to the unique challenges of our times.” Connect Regional Secretary, Ger Mooney, said:  “There are now almost 20% fewer people employed in local authorities than in 2008. There are fewer than 40 apprentices employed by local authorities nationally. We need to upskill the workforce in local authorities, create more direct employment and reverse the trend over the last four decades where public services are continuously outsourced. All across the EU, previously out-sourced services are being brought back in-house because it leads to increased efficiencies and better service quality outcomes for communities.”