Waterford’s City, County and Town councillors face an anxious wait over the summer months, as the Government decides whether to act on An Bord Snip Nua’s recommendations to reform the local authority system.
If the controversial proposals are approved, the move will result in the abolition of Dungarvan, Lismore and Tramore town councils and the merging of Waterford City and County councils and Carlow and Kilkenny county councils. And Environment Minister John Gormley has already indicated he is ‘happy’ to consider the possibility of merging Waterford City and County councils, particularly it if would enchance the status of Waterford as a city and as the Gateway of the south east under the National Spatial Strategy.
Last June, Minister Gormley told a group of business people in Tramore that he was ‘open’ to the idea of merging Waterford City and County councils, following a suggestion by local Green Party candidate for the County Council, Stan Nangle. Mr Nangle, who was not elected to the Town Council, told 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. Issues raised by the group included 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.
Minister Gormley assured the group that 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 he would be happy to look at that as an option. “I am cognizant 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”, the Minister concluded.
Meanwhile particular concern has been expressed about the possible merging of Carlow and Kilkenny by the Newrath based former President of the Association of County and City Councils, Dick Dowling. “Merging Kilkenny and Carlow, you’re moving towards a regionalisation and you have to fully examine what’s involved. I feel the county system has worked exceptionally well. That would be something highly unusual and whether or not you could even achieve it is questionable.”