Waterford local authority restructuring announced by Minister Hogan

Mr Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, announced today (22 October, 2012), that he has established an independently chaired Implementation Group to oversee the practical work of local government reorganisation in Waterford.

The Group, to be chaired by Mr. Sean Aylward, who chaired the Waterford Local Government Committee, will complete its work by 30 June 2013, with the production of an Implementation Plan to set a clear agenda and guidance for the completion of the reorganisation process leading to the establishment of the unitary authority in 2014. The Minister has also announced the Terms of Reference for the Group, which are attached together with details of the full membership of the Group.

This follows the Government’s approval of the report of the Waterford Local Government Committee as part of the major package of local government reform set out in the Action Programme launched on 16 October by Minister Hogan in conjunction with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

The Waterford Committee’s report, which was also published on 16 October, recommends that the Waterford County and Waterford City Councils should be unified to replace the existing authorities with effect from the local elections in 2014. While the specific purpose of the review was to recommend whether amalgamation should take place, the Committee felt it was useful to examine the impact of a number of possible options for local government arrangements in Waterford in order to inform this choice. It indicated that it reached its conclusion having carefully weighed the evidence and considered concerns about amalgamation raised during the consultation process.

The report identifies a number of advantages associated with merger including more cohesive economic and social development. It also outlines the Committee’s vision for a new Waterford under strong local leadership, with a regenerated City as an intellectual and business engine of the region, attracting visitors and investors on a scale not previously envisaged.

The report recommends a number of initiatives to accompany merger, including: –

–  The retention of offices in both Waterford City and Dungarvan;
–  Revised sub-county structures;
–  Arrangements to address financial issues; and
–  More effective arrangements for coordinated development and planning.

Minister Hogan stressed that “The identity of Waterford City will be fully maintained, including the office of mayor and other civic roles in the new municipal arrangements. Indeed unification will strengthen Waterford and enable it to play a much stronger role than it has done in recent years as a focus of economic and social development”. The Minister Hogan added that “planning for the new arrangements will begin immediately and will be carried out in an inclusive manner, having regard to the respective urban and rural considerations, as recommended by the Committee”.

Minister Hogan also said: –
“I would like to thank the Waterford Local Government Committee for its work and the timely submission of the report which, along with the work, already under way in Limerick and Tipperary, will form a key element of reforms to strengthen local government. Today’s announcement, following consideration and approval by Government, will continue the momentum of reform with restructuring of local government arrangements in Waterford.”

Legislation will be brought forward to cover transitional management arrangements. Up until the merger in 2014, organisational rationalisation and integration will proceed as far as possible, including integration of services and administration, and alignment and convergence in policies between the two authorities. Further legislation will be required to implement, with effect from the 2014 local elections, the merger of the two authorities, establishment of a new unitary authority and transfer of the functions, and relevant finance, assets, liabilities, and staff from the existing councils to the successor authority.

The report of the Committee is available on the Department’s website at www.environ.ie http://www.environ.ie

1.            The Waterford Local Government Committee was established in September 2011 to carry out an objective review of local government arrangements in Waterford and to submit a report containing recommendations on whether the County Council and City Council of Waterford should be unified. The Committee, appointed in accordance with the statutory provisions of section 28 of the Local Government Act 1991, was chaired by Mr. Sean Aylward (former Secretary General, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform);

2. Advantages identified by the Committee in recommending merger include: –

  • More cohesive economic and social development and a single point of entry for businesses wishing to locate or continue to do business in Waterford
  • A single authority to provide a voice for 114,000 people and hence scale and critical mass to enhance Waterford and enable it to compete more effectively regionally, nationally and globally
  • Enhanced public service coordination and integration at the local level
  • Simplifying and enhancing the delivery landscape for the people of Waterford through the ability to configure services under one elected council and manager
  • Better and more efficient staffing arrangements providing benefits both to clients and to staff of the merged authority through clearer workforce planning
  • Annual financial savings of the order of €5 million that can be used to reduce the rate burden and improve services generally.