Political supporters of the unification of North and South Tipperary Co. Councils have cited the €7m it’s estimated it will save and claim it will lead to a more lean and efficient local government in the county.
South Tipperary Co. Council Chairman Cllr Michael Fitzgerald of Fine Gael said the merger was the most “seismic change” in local government in his 32 years as a councillor.
He said the decision has been made and the two councils have to embrace the change and see how best to achieve the unification of both local authorities and get the best deal possible.
To those who believe that Co. Tipperary is too large to be governed by one local authority, Cllr Fitzgerald pointed to Cork County Council as an example of a single local authority that covered a huge geographical area.
He believed that if the merger was managed properly there should be very little disruption to services or staff reductions except at top managerial level.
Cllr Fitgerald said everybody is being asked to tighten up, save and be more efficient at the moment due to the state of the economy and the merger will be worth it if we end up with a better run operation on account.
“I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s something that is going to happen. We have to sit down and embrace it and try and see what is the best we can do.”
He met with Minister Phil Hogan last Friday and got a commitment from him to meet with South Tipperary Co. Council Fine Gael members at the end of August to discuss their issues of concern about the merger.
Carrick-on-Suir Labour Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald said he was totally in favour of the merger as he believes it will save money, cut down on wastage and improve the efficiency and quality of local government.
He said people of all political party affiliations he had spoken to in his hometown of Carrick-on-Suir were in favour of the amalgamation.
While it will mean more work for fewer county councillors, he believes the calibre of the public representatives elected to the new county council in 2014 will be better as only the most seriously interested in local politics will make it through. And these new councillors will have to be more efficient in representing their constituents over a wider area.
South Tipperary Co. Council’s Vice Chairman Cllr Michael Murphy from Clonmel said it made perfect sense that both local authorities would be amalgamated and he understood the unification of the two local authority areas would save the government about €7m.
He called for any savings achieved by the merger to be channelled into reducing the level of commercial rates both in north and south Tipperary to help struggling small businesses throughout the country rather than using it to reduce the Local Government Fund grant the new Tipperary Co. Council receives annually.
While he accepted that the merger would result in a reduction in the number of county councillors, he cautioned against cutting the numbers too severely.
“It’s very important that we recognise the role of the councillors and that we do continue to have sufficient number of councillors to represent the people and give them access to local government.
“It’s 94 miles from Carrick-on-Suir to the bridge in Portroe. Geographically, we are unlike any other local authority in the country and that needs to be taken into account,” he added.
Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Alan Kelly, who is based in Nenagh, said the proposed amalgamation will no doubt lead to cost-savings and improved efficiencies which will free up essential funds for improvement projects but it will also give the county a single unified voice in terms of promoting business and tourism for the whole county.
“We will be able to have a more united approach when it comes to tourism, infrastructure, marketing for investment and other local services which will benefit all the county.”
“The onus is now on the two councils to get together with the appropriate authorities and put a planned structure in place that ensures the current level of services are maintained across the county. I am confident that Tipperary Councils have the professional and experienced staff to facilitate such a plan” added the Minister.
Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said the merger will help the economic and social development of the county as a whole.
“Overall I welcome the news of the Tipperary Council integration. It has also been announced that North Tipperary commercial rates will fall in line with South Tipperary rates, which is welcome news.
“More importantly though are the savings that the entire county will see as a result of the increased efficiencies and waste reduction that are bound to occur. These changes will help to promote the economic and social development of the county as a whole”
“Although there are certainly details to be teased out, I am hopeful that this merger will result in the provision of an enhanced local authority and a more prosperous and successful Tipperary” Deputy Hayes concluded.