:: Proposal presents “opportunity for Limerick to pilot a new model for delivering a successful and imaginative new structure of local government in Ireland.”
:: City to act as “a generator of economic and social development.”
The Government has confirmed it has decided to implement the main recommendations of the Limerick Local Government Committee report, creating a new single local authority to replace the current Limerick City and County Councils.
The series of recommendations on reforming local Government structures in Limerick and Clare were made in the report published by the Limerick Local Government Committee in 2010.
The report, chaired by Tony Brosnan, called for Limerick City to get a boundary extension and to become the third largest city in the State. The report also recommended Limerick County and City Council should be amalgamated.
The historic decision is slated to boost local economic activity and create potential savings of over €15 million for the Authority over time.
The decision would also allow the single Limerick Authority to address the social, economic and administrative issues affecting Limerick by the creation of a single local authority under the leadership of a single elected council and single management.
The new unitary authority will come into being following the 2014 local elections. Meanwhile, appropriate management arrangements will operate from early 2012 up to the 2014 elections.
Not all of the Brosnan recommendations will be adopted though; a variation from the Committee’s recommendation is a decision not to implement the proposed transfer of an area of approximately 5 sq. kilometres from Clare to Limerick.
“We are implementing the core elements of the Committee’s recommendations. There is wide agreement on the need for urgent, decisive change in local government in Limerick. The decisions that we have taken will provide for successful transition to much stronger local government for Limerick which is essential to the future success of the City and its region,” Local Government Minister Phil Hogan said Tuesday.
The two regeneration agencies will now also report to the one authority while there will be an election of the Mayor of the new unitary authority after the 2014 local elections for the full five year term of the new authority.
“This decision to restructure Limerick to a single local authority is among a range of local government reforms which will be implemented in accordance with the Programme for Government.”
The Limerick Chamber has warmly welcomed the announcement saying the new authority proposed by Minister Hogan “should not be seen as an amalgamation of the two existing authorities.”
Kieran Mac Sweeney, Limerick Chamber President said the move should be seen as an entirely new structure, and “what we must focus on now is how this new blank canvas is developed to deliver the best possible services for the lowest cost burden to the business community.”
“An expanded city within a unified authority gives Limerick and the region the best framework to create a dynamic and cost effective region contributing to the much needed reduction in rates. It will also give a strong message that Limerick is very much open for business helping to attract in foreign direct investment,” he said.
They say they are delighted that the proposal includes a planned reduction of rates for Limerick City businesses via a harmonisation of rates between City and County. The new structure could allow for the harmonisation of the rates downwards to the current County Council level of €59.91 from the city rate of €76.46.
The new Mayor of Limerick Jim Long welcomed the decision and said he was confident that the new authority, with a population of 184,000 will have the capacity to meet its challenges and cement Limerick’s status as Ireland’s third city.
“I’m pleased, that as the 815th Mayor of this ancient city, the historic office of Mayor of Limerick is being maintained. Limerick needs to be the driving force for development as the capital of the Mid-West and I look forward to working with all public representatives as we face the challenges in the years ahead.”
The Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council, Councillor Richard Butler says the most important issue at the centre of this debate “has been the betterment of the people of Limerick City and County, which has been at the forefront of Limerick County Council’s approach.”
“Limerick County Council never viewed this matter as “City versus County” as both are interdependent from an economic, social, cultural and sporting perspective. The County Council pledges to work with all local, regional and national interests to achieve the ultimate goal of delivering a better Limerick for all its citizens”, Butler said.
The Cathaoirleach said that the Implementation Committee “should be established as quickly as possible”.
“Wrong Option Taken”
City councilor Maurice Quinlivan is speaking of his disappointment at the decision saying merging is the wrong option to take in reforming local government.
“In our submission to the Brosnan Committee, Sinn Féin argued strongly for a meaningful city boundary extension with a new and stronger city council. This would have had the effect of strengthening local government and economic cohesion in the Limerick urban area while also preserving the centuries old Limerick City Council,” Quinlivan said.
“Sinn Féin is not convinced that the Government’s decision will prove to be the best one for Limerick. Neither do we think that the process of merging the councils will be a seamless nor problem-free matter. That this decision seems to have been primarily driven by reasons of cost is not a good omen in terms of maximizing democratic representation and accountability.”
Quinlivan also raid concerns over the plan to subsume the Limerick Regeneration agencies into the new authority.
“It is precisely because the existing local government structures were not up to the task of bringing meaningful economic and social development to the most deprived and neglected of the city’s residential districts that the stand-alone agencies were set up in the first place,” he says.
He does however welcome the commitment of a directly elected Mayor.
Further details will be made available as soon as possible including revealing how many Councillors will make up the new authority.