Environment Minister John Gormley told a group of business people in Tramore last Friday that he was ‘open’ to the idea of merging Waterford City and County Councils, suggested by local Green Party candidate for the County Council, Stan Nangle.
Minister Gormley met with a group of local entrepreneurs who have set up businesses in what Mr Nangle describes as the ‘fast growing’ activity holidays sector. The group met with the Minister on the cliffs near the Coastguard Station, where he was able to enjoy the spectacular view of Tramore Bay, the beach, sand dunes and backstrand.
The group told the Minister of the problems they were having dealing with, or getting recognition from various Government Departments and State Agencies, and how those issues were impacting on their ability to develop sustainable tourism and create new jobs.
Mr Nangle pinpointed major issues that were raised: ‘the poor quality of public infrastructure in the town and the ongoing difficulties the local tourism industry was having persuading Waterford County Council to invest money in the east of the county.’
The group made the point that the new sewage treatment plant, which Minister Gormley opened in the town twelve months ago, had made a huge impact on water quality in Tramore Bay, but it was noted that Waterford County Council had still not begun work on a sewage treatment plant in nearby Dunmore East despite the Minister having made the funding available in his Department’s Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009.
Mr Nangle pointed out to the Minister that Waterford County Council was one of the poorest in the country and noted that Clonmel Borough Council got more revenue from on street parking than Waterford County Council got from rates.
“Tramore has become a major dormitory for Waterford City”, said Mr Nangle, “and a significant proportion of the resort’s residents work and shop in the city. This means that the rates income from their economic activities are received by City Council and not the County Council, yet the County Council is responsible for funding critical infrastructure within the town”.
The Minister claimed he was committed to improving local authority funding and that he was open to looking at innovative solutions when it came to problems like those being experienced in Waterford city and county.
“The local authorities have a major role to play in how we develop our economy and our society going forward”, said Minister Gormley, “so I am looking at ways to make them more effective, more sustainable and more resilient”.
He said it might be the case that the people of the city and county would be better served by having a single local authority and I am happy to look at that as an option. I am cognisant that any such change must enhance the status of Waterford City as a city, and as the Gateway City of the south east under the National Spatial Strategy”.