The announcements last week of major reductions in public spending are not good news for Waterford and the south east. It means that decentralisation of the Department of Environment to Waterford is under a cloud.
The latter was to provide over 200 jobs and give a boost to the City Council, with a land sale already having taken place. Now it looks to be on hold for a while until the public finances make a turnaround.
The decentralisation has always been clouded in controversy as it has taken so long to get staff to agree to change and move out of the capital city.
The Land Registry decentralisation has proven to be very successful in its implementation. New technology has been used more and the operation has become more efficient since it was moved from the capital.
This is one of the features of decentralisation in that systems can be changed, more computerisation can be introduced and the internet and e mail make it easier for outside offices to communicate with one another.
One would have thought that decentralisation if handled correctly could save money. High property prices in Dublin should mean that when major offices are sold there a surplus can be achieved, which should more than pay for new buildings in Waterford or down the country elsewhere.
Fit outs should also be less expensive. If it is costing more then it is obviously bad business or developers are taking advantage.
There should be value for money in moving from the congested city centre of Dublin.
Waterford and other regional centres should be making a case for the cost savings that can be achieved in moving out of the capital in the medium to longer term, more efficiencies can be created and better work methods introduced. Accepting the Government at its word last week should not be the end of things in this regard.
Another project under threat we understand is that of the Viking Quarter near Cathedral Square and the Mall in Waterford city centre. This was going to be a great initiative for tourism and was sure to work.
Similar type projects have worked well in other cities abroad, where a tourism focus has been established in a medieval style area.
While we may have a tourism slowdown at present, cutting back on a plan that will deliver more returns from foreign tourists will be regretted in the long term. Is there a way of making the project more viable so that it goes ahead? We should have more disclosure on a costs benefit analysis.
Minister Cullen‘s strength in cabinet will be tested on this one. He will have to argue that a deferral of the investment will lose money for the local economy.
It may be time for Waterford and its assembled forces of social partners to argue the case strongly for both decentralisation and the tourism investment on the Viking Quarter, on the basis that it will make a return on investment for the State and the taxpayer.