The six Town Councils in County Tipperary are to be abolished along with Clonmel Borough Council in the most radical shake-up to the local authority system in Ireland, with the Premier County to suffer more than most at the hands of Environment Minister Phil ‘The Enforcer’ Hogan. A whopping 78 public representative -2 in every 3 of those in Tipp- will be lost to the county in the move which has being criticised as a cost saving, rather than reforming, measure.
He might have been booed by his own people when Kilkenny brought home the Liam McCarthy Cup to Nowlan Park a few weeks ago - well, Minister Phil Hogan won’t be any more popular in Tipperary having brought the plan to Cabinet to eradicate hundreds of collective years of service to the community, that has been the Town Councils. The democratic institutions, which dealt with the nuts and bolts of the running of local services and infrastructure, will be no more following the 2014 local elections. The end of an era is nigh.
Add to this the amalgamation of North and South Tipperary County Council’s into one huge administrative animal and it is clear to see that the face of local authority and public representation will be radically changed in Tipperary. In fact, the Premier County is to be one of the most affected in the country thanks to the Minister’s plan which received the full support of the Cabinet, both Fine Gael and Labour members.
The overall County Council will be divided into five Municipal Districts, with each district containing seven councillors.
Effectively this means that Tipperary will be losing 77 public representatives, on top of one TD in the next Dail. The Premier County will go from having 118 public representatives at various different levels, to having just 40. It’s a case of local government being slaughtered rather than trimmed.
Already in Tipperary, the Vocational Education Committees are being amalgamated and with significant public representation on these committees as well, there will be major changes in the new organisation. And, other major State supported bodies such as Leader, the Enterprise Boards, Shannon Development and many more will also see major changes to their structure and make-up with many being abolished altogether.
For the Tipperary towns affected - Thurles, Nenagh, Templemore, Cashel, Tipperary, Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel- the face of local democracy will be changed beyond recognition. Councillors, who have been the go-to faces for locals for generations, will most certainly lose their seats and for those standing for election in 2014, they will find their stomping grounds over-populated with candidates and significanlty increased. As one councillor put it this week, “There will be a lot of blood on the floor in 2014.”
Of course with the abolition of the councils, will come major changes to the staffing levels also. Voluntary redundancies will be offered to staff members across the board with 500 being sought nationally in a bid to save E24 million.
The electoral map of Tipperary will be redrawn and it is expected that the 35 councillors will be responsible for representing apprximately 5,000 people each. This means that the quota at election time will be much higher than heretofore and so too will be area to be represented.
The county councillors will cover both their own local area and represent the area at county level, under the system known as Municipal Districts. It is unclear yet as to the extent of the change of powers the public representatives will have, but one thing is quite clear - Tipperary, as a whole, will be governed more or less centrally now, from either Nenagh or Clonmel - and neither are exactly central to the county.
While it was generally accepted that savings could be made in the local authoritiaes through the reduction of public representatives, nobody expected Minister Hogan to bring in the chainsaw rather than the scalpel. Local government in Tipperary it seems will be ‘deformed’ rather than reformed thanks to our neighbouring Minister.