Tuesday 26 September 2017

500 council staff to lose jobs in 'slimming down' merger of local government

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

UP to 500 council staff will be made redundant in the biggest shakeup of local government in the history of the State.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan will bring his reforms plans to the Cabinet tomorrow.

The numbers of staff working for councils will be reduced by 500 in a targeted redundancy scheme that will save €24m.

Local government staffing has already been reduced by 8,500, almost a quarter of staff, in the past five years, bringing the pay bill down by €288m.

And the number of councillors across the country will be reduced from 1,627 to 950.

The work of town and county councils will be merged in a slimming-down plan aimed at saving more than €70m a year.

The role of town councillors will be scrapped with enhanced county councils looking after towns and counties.

Dublin and the east coast will end up getting more city and county councillors in a re-balancing of the allocations.

It is understood there is agreement between Fine Gael and the Labour Party on the radical new proposals.

Aside from the changes in personnel, the reforms will make councils more accountable to the public and give a clearer picture of their exact role.

The cuts will be achieved through the abolition of all 744 town councillors and marginally increasing the number of city and county councillors from 883 to a maximum of 950.

The electoral map of each county will be redrawn, with the number of councillors on each authority ranging from 18 to 40 with one councillor allocated for every 5,000 people.

However, there will be exceptions to this rule to avoid the numbers of councillors being slashed by too much in some counties with small populations.

The exercise will result in more councillors for Dublin and the surrounding counties on the east coast where the population has grown substantially.

And some county councils will lose out under the rebalancing exercise.

The county councillors will cover both their own local area and represent the area at county level, under a system known as Municipal Districts.

On average, these districts will elect seven councillors.

From the current system of 114 town, city and county councils, there will be only 31 councils under the new plan -- one in each of the 26 counties in the country, plus Dublin has a city council and three county councils and Cork and Galway have a city and county council each.

Abolition

Apart from the abolition of the 80 borough and town councils, the merging of Tipperary north and south and Limerick city and county is already under way, with Waterford city and county expected to follow.

Following the redraw of the electoral map early next year, the new system will come into effect for the 2014 local elections

The reforms of the local government structures alone will save €45m, with about €15-€20m of that figure coming from abolition of the town councils.

The reduction in the number of staff will save €24m per annum and there are expected to be other savings arising from the plan too.

The reforms are supposed to make the councils more accountable and efficient.

Irish Independent

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