Council Abolition ‘a Chainsaw Massacre’

ABOLISHING Templemore Town Council will be like a “chainsaw massacre” leaving the town without any democratic voice, according to Town Councillors. Councillors unanimously attacked Phil Hogan’s plans to scrap all Town Councils, claiming it will leave Templemore swallowed up between the much bigger towns of Roscrea and Thurles, wiping out 150 years of local democracy with the stroke of a pen.

ABOLISHING Templemore Town Council will be like a “chainsaw massacre” leaving the town without any democratic voice, according to Town Councillors. Councillors unanimously attacked Phil Hogan’s plans to scrap all Town Councils, claiming it will leave Templemore swallowed up between the much bigger towns of Roscrea and Thurles, wiping out 150 years of local democracy with the stroke of a pen.

Cllr Valerie Young pointed to the Seanad as a body which could be scrapped to save money. “What about the Seanad? Why the local connection with local people?” Cllr Jim O’Shea said there was an awful lot of ambiguity in the booklet outlining the proposed plans, called ‘Putting People First’. “Where will housing go? There’s no clarity in it at all.” Cllr O’Shea said he would welcome reform “but not as it is presented” here.

Cllr Mick Connell said it was “pure crap”. “All the Council managers will be Chief Executives.” The new municipal bodies will be “glorified committees.” Cllr Connell expressed fear for Templemore, post 2014. Templemore will be a “small town” sandwiched between Thurles and Roscrea, will little say. Cllr Martin Fogarty said these plans had been in the pipeline for four or five years. “There is a serious chance we will not be represented.” The new local authority will encompass an area from Roscrea to Boherlahan. “There will be no representation for Templemore. We’ve had a Council for 150 years, and now we’ll have none.” It will be the less well off members of society who will hurt the most, “not the top 10%”, added Cllr Fogarty.

Cllr Fogarty pointed to a recent report which highlighted that some 25 government ministers were not liable for tax on their pensions. “It’s a disgrace.” Cllr Michael Ryan said last Tuesday was a “sad day for democracy.” Templemore will be “swallowed up” between Roscrea and Thurles. It will be very important the Councillors representing the new bigger area, will be “personally available” to people on the ground. Cllr Ryan questioned why the government had to start making cuts from the “bottom up.” “They should begin at the top rather than local government. Local government is being deformed, rather than reformed. This will be a chainsaw massacre.”

Cllr Ryan said all the town Councillors had always put party politics aside for the good of Templemore. “When issues have come up, we coped with them together and tried to get other parties involved as well. When news came through on Tuesday, (people) started to realise that there would be more representation for them. Templemore will be at a loss,” added Cllr Ryan.

Cllr O’Shea said the plans will disempower ordinary people and hand power into the hands of unelected officials. “We’re being offered up as a sacrificial lamb.” The whole system would be transformed into a bureacracy like the HSE. “There’ll no accountability from these proposals. There’s no detail. It’s an ad-hoc document that is not about reform. It leads to total anarchy. It’s a total shame, it’s totally disgusting. There was no consultation.”

All the power is being centralised to the “powers that be” in Dublin: “Now they will be able to justify even bigger bonuses. It will cost even more. I am very proud to be a Town Councillor, it’s very said to be saying goodbye to it,” added Cllr O’Shea.

Cllr Young said she understood the country is broke, “but I feel that democracy should be done fairly, and across the board. If you wipe away the bottom, you’ll drive ordinary people away.”

Cllr Joe Bourke said it was “strange” that the Councils were being wiped completely. The Councils don’t cost a lot: “Why not leave the Councils, but pay the Councillors nothing?”. The decision has been made. “It’s done and dusted,” said Cllr Bourke.

Cllr Connell expressed disgust at the performance of the local Oireachtas members. “We were sold down the river by the people in power, to protect their own skin. They’ve no interest but to get rid of Town Councils.” Under the new system, householders would be left ringing Waterford to have a pothole fixed in Templemore, added Cllr Connell.

Town Clerk Tom McGrath expressed doubts over new computer systems designed to bring local government closer to the people. The Town Council had been involved in accepting household charges, and later, the registration of septic tanks. However, the system crashed when over “480 tanks” came to be registered. “The Computer failed in the middle of it all.”

All the moves toward decentralisation have suddenly been reversed, said Mr McGrath. Commercial rates for Templemore - still some of the lowest in the country - would likely be revised upwards in line with County rates, and that’s before the amalgamation of the two Tipperary County Councils goes ahead, warned Mr McGrath.

Cllr Ryan quoted a recent editorial in the Tipperary Star: “The system which is being introduced must be about more than fiscal matters – it must ensure that the public receive a service that is as good, and even better, than a structure which has, for the most part, served the people of the country well for over one hundred years.”