The Local Government Act, 2001 provided for the establishment of Strategic Policy Committees. The thinking behind this was that an opportunity would be afforded to the elected Members of the Council to work in partnership with representatives of groups that would have an interest in specific policy areas. The representatives of the groups are often referred to as the Sectoral Representatives. They are selected in accordance with a Strategic Policy Scheme.
The Members of Laois County Council at their meeting on the 30th September 2019 adopted a Strategic Policy Committee for the period 2019 – 2024. A copy of the adopted Scheme can be viewed at the links hereunder.
In Laois, there are 4 Strategic Policy Committees dealing with policy matters.
The Scheme provides for the following Committees:
- Housing Regeneration and Planning,
- Climate Action and Community,
- Transport, Environment and Emergency Services, and
- Enterprise, Economic Development and Tourism.
Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 – Transparency Code
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is designed to provide information to the public regarding who may be lobbying whom and about what. Individuals and organisations who participate in Strategic Policy Committees established by the local authorities may have obligations under the Act.
A critical element of public policy formulation by the SPCs is the availability to local authorities of expertise, skills and knowledge from person outside of the public service. Where membership of the Committee comprises of at least one person who, for the purposes of the Act is a Designated Public Official, it may be the case that communications within the group could be considered lobbying communications. The person making these communications may be required to register as a Lobbyist and to submit a return of this communication to the Register of Lobbying.
However, the Act provides for an exception from the requirement to register in such cases once specified transparency criteria have been put in place. A Transparency Code was published by the Minister for Finance & Public Expenditure and Reform to address this situation. Communications between members of an SPC about the work of the Committee would be exempt where the group complies with the Transparency Code and where the local authority that established the Committee publishes the following on its website:
- The Committee’s Terms of Reference, i.e. the SPC Scheme which is available here
- Details of the membership of the Committee which is available here
- Agendas and minutes of meetings.
The minutes and agendas for each of the above SPC’s can be accessed by clicking on the relevant SPC.