Critics of the unification of Tipperary’s county councils have questioned whether it will achieve real savings and fear it will lead to reduced local government services, political representation for the public and excessive workloads on the council staff left.
The Fianna Fail party whip on South Tipperary Co. Council Cllr Michael Anglim from Ardfinnan is among the public representatives firmly in the camp opposed to the amalgamation.
He fears the cost of merging both councils will be very high and argues that it would be more practical and cost effective to retain the two councils and simply cut the number of staff and councillors in each authority.
“I don’t see what advantage there is going to be in amalgamating the two councils. I think if the Government wanted to spare money, it could cut back on the number of councillors in each area and reduce some of the staff. You will always be in a position to get a handful of voluntary redundancies in each council.
“Co. Tipperary is too long a county - it’s half the length of the country. I think more money will be spent on this and it isn’t going to be any addition in my honest opinion. Didn’t the two councils serve the people reasonably well all these years?
Cllr Anglim, who is one of the county’s longest serving co. councillors, also doubts that unifying both councils will make the operation of local government more efficient because of Co. Tipperary’s size
He pointed out that many councillors, for example, will have to travel longer distances to attend meetings and do council business.
Tipperary Town Independent Denis Leahy agrees that the merger will cost a lot of money and believes local democracy will suffer. He argues that bigger local electoral areas will favour the bigger political parties at the expense of smaller parties and independents like him.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of it but for independents it’s going to be very difficult to get elected. It will definitely suit the bigger parties, which isn’t good for democracy.
While the merger will bring administrative efficiencies such as one county manager and directors of services for roads, housing, environment, water and so on, he believes that councillors will be left serving huge areas and won’t be properly familiar with all the issues and problems of constituents.
“Big doesn’t always mean better. At the end of the day these things look good on paper but when you come to putting it into operation you find a lot of things hidden underneath that were not taken into account.”
On behalf of the Workers & Unemployment Action Group, Seamus Healy TD described the merger as a purely money saving exercise that will lead to a reduction in services to all parts of the county, and declared that all Tipperary should oppose the amalgamation as well as the new household rates.
“It will facilitate staff reduction with consequent excessive workloads on remaining staff. Waiting periods for services will increase dramatically,” said deputy Healy, whose political group has two members on South Tipperary Co. Council.
“At the same time Minister Hogan had the temerity to announce the return of household rates. Together with increased refuse charges and the return of water charges each household will be paying E1000 euro per year. This figure will then rise as each year goes by.
“On the other hand, the Government refuses to tax the financial assets of the super-rich which have increased by a massive 50 billion in the last two years, he added.