Local authority meetings
Local authorities conduct much of their business at meetings of the full council. These meetings are regulated by law. (In other words, there are specific legal rules about how often the meetings should take place and how they are conducted, set out in Part 6 and Schedule 10 of the Local Government Act, 2001 and associated regulations - S.I. No. 66 of 2002).
There are essentially four different types of meetings held by the local authority:
- An annual meeting (held in May/June each year)
- Ordinary meetings (usually held at least monthly)
- A budget meeting (usually towards the end of the year)
- A special meeting (held occasionally).
Special meetings may also be called by the Cathaoirleach or by 5 members of the Council.
At the annual meeting (held in May/June each year), the Cathaoirleach is elected by the members. Following a local election, the first meeting of the local authority after the election is the annual meeting). Under Section 57 of the Local Authority Reform Act 2014, it is normally held on the fourteenth (14th) day after polling day. It is at this annual meeting that the various elected members are appointed to various committees of the local authority, in addition to other organisations. Under the 2014 Act, the meeting also sets the days for the first meetings of the municipal district members for each of the municipal districts within the local authority's area. They must take place within 10 days of the annual meeting.
The Cathaoirleach chairs the meetings of the council. He or she is entitled to move that a councillor leave the meeting because of his/her conduct. If that motion is seconded, the councillor must leave. The Cathaoirleach also has the power to adjourn the meeting due to general disorder or because a person asked to leave has refused to do so.
If it is practical, the authority should hold the meetings at the main offices of the council and should decide on and follow a regular schedule for the holding of ordinary meetings.
Section 45 of the Local Government Act, 2001 gives the public and the press a general right to be present at local authority meetings. However, if the council has a special reason for doing so, it can decide by a resolution of at least 50% of its total members to hold the meeting in a private committee. It must be in the overall public interest to hold the meeting in private.
The public is entitled to 3 days notice of council meetings - the notice must be available for inspection at the main offices of the council.
A local authority is entitled to make rules regulating the right of the public and the press to attend its meetings. For example, it can limit the numbers of the public that can attend to take into account available space at the meeting, it can limit the taking of photographs and it can provide for removing members of the public who do not conduct themselves properly at the meeting.
Every local authority will fix a minimum number of members (known as a 'quorum') that must be present in order for a meeting to commence and for business to be conducted. The quorum is 25% of the total number of members of the local authority plus one. Where 25% of the total number of members is not a whole number, the quorum is the next highest whole number plus one. In situations where a meeting is abandoned owing to failure to obtain a quorum, the names of those members present are recorded.
At the council meeting, every member of the council is entitled to vote for or against resolutions put forward at the meeting. In most cases, a resolution is passed where the majority of the members present vote in favour of the resolution.