THE wisdom of Nelson Mandela was cited at the monthly meeting of the local authority when no less than 12 members called for a new system to make sure that all motions adopted result in action on the ground.
“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world,” said Councillor Cillian Murphy quoting the late South African leader. “It is relatively easy to have a motion passed here on the council, but the real work is ensure there is a follow-up.”
Along with 11 council colleagues of all parties and none, Councillor Murphy asked the authority to devise a publicly-accessible system to record all motions, official responses and follow-up actions. “Many motions come from environs outside these walls and arise from conversations with constituents,” he noted. “It can be very wearying to track what progress has been made and we must prove to constituents that action is being taken. What we are proposing would add a layer of transparency, accountability and oversight over our term as councillors. Motions should not be slipping through the net.”
A fellow proposer of the motion, Councillor Joe Garrihy noted that a good idea is most likely to be something someone has already proposed. “This would be a type of project management process,” he said. “Having information about previous, similar motions would be very useful. In a ways, this is like an NCT for a motion. Tracing the journey of a good idea through to fruition would be good to see.”
Other members associated with the motion included Councillor Ian Lynch. “The fact that 12 councillors have moved this motion is proof that something is needed,” he said. “Sometimes it can feel like letters are written by us and that seems to be that.”
Councillor Johnny Flynn noted that members had previously agreed to reduce the number of motions they each proposed each month in the interests of efficiency. “The media report on the motions agreed,” he noted. “This is welcome and the public then expect action fairly quickly. This is not always possible.”
According to Councillor Pat Hayes, a new tracking system might cut down on the repeating of motions, while fellow Fianna Fáil members Joe Killeen and Mark Nestor also expressed their support.
The existing system, according to Councillor Gerry Flynn was “dysfunctional”. “The difference now is that we have new, vibrant councillors who see that the system is dysfunctional,” he said. “They see motions being repeated and that if you get the timing right, you just might get something done.”
Councillor Pat McMahon agreed that more coordination is needed. “Department rules can change,” he noted. “Staff change. You eventually get answers and they may not be to your satisfaction. Sometimes, you run into a full stop and can’t get any more information.”
The introduction of a new system, according to Councillor PJ Kelly is “long overdue”. “You could also question how binding a resolution is,” he remarked. “In the case of planning, when a binding resolution happens, it should be abided by.”
Responding, Ann Reynolds, Senior Executive Officer, agreed that tracking and follow-up of motions is essential.
‘Clare County Council has a number of CRM systems all operated from internal IT servers,” a written response noted. “Each CRM meets a different business requirement, has its own workflow and its own particular set of customers and defined staff user logins. Examples include Environmental Complaints, Roads Complaints, Unauthorised Development, Derelict Sites and Notice of Motions. These systems were all custom built internally based on business requirements. The Corporate Services Department manages the Notice of Motions CRM for Council meetings and currently logs and tracks all Notice of Motions. The review of and integration of CRMs has been identified as an area for business improvement. The Business Review Team has commenced work on a review of all Customer based CRMs with a view to developing a central Customer CRM system. This work ceased during the COVID-19 pandemic and is due to recommence in the coming weeks. An option to include a Councillor Motions module will be explored as part of this project proposal.
“Separately a Councillor Cases application was developed and launched in late 2019 to enable Councillors to log and track representations electronically. This is a web based app with defined user logins and passwords.
“A paperless meeting solution is also being examined with potential additional functionality for logging and tracking notice of motions. Both options require further review and consultations with relevant stakeholders and development of a proposal which will include the scope of the project, timelines and costs.”
Councillors Mary Howard and Bill Chambers were also associated with the proposal of the motion.