Bombshell as Clonmel Borough Council to be axed with three other town councils

Sian Moloughney

Sian Moloughney

After more than 400 years the historic Clonmel Borough Council is to be abolished under Minister Phil Hogan’s Plan to revamp local government in Ireland.

In a decision that came as a huge shock to Borough Council members, who had been assured in recent weeks by a government minister that borough councils would be retained in the new plan, it was revealed yesterday (Tuesday) morning that only County Councils are to remain, following local elections in 2014.

Town councils in Carrick on Suir, Cashel and Tipp Town are also to be abolished, as was predicted.

After 2014 the merged Tipperary County Council will be the only elected body in the county. Towns will be divided into Municipal Areas, and the representatives on the County Council from that area will meet to discuss matters relating to that town.

Mayor of Clonmel Billy Shoer was shocked on Tuesday morning, and said “it’s a bombshell that after 635 years the mayoralty of Clonmel is going. The ‘mayor’ now will be just ceremonial, it takes away what ‘mayor of Clonmel’ means.” From 2014 the title of ‘mayor’ will be given to the chairperson of the county councillors who make up the Municipal District committee for the Clonmel area.

“This rubbishes our history. If this is what the government is about they can hang their heads in shame.”

Mayor Shoer said that if the changes were just about cost saving then it was worth remembering that councillors worked for hundreds of years for their towns for no payment. When he was elected in 1999 there was no salary for councillors.

What made yesterday’s decision even more shocking for Clonmel was a guarantee personally given to Mayor Shoer by Minister of State Alan Kelly, in recent weeks, that Clonmel Borough Council would stay. “Alan Kelly assured me that the Borough Council would stay, and as a ten person council, when he visited Clonmel this summer.

“It’s a shock to the system to realise I will be the second last Mayor of Clonmel. It will be the saddest occasion in the town to elect our final mayor. It was bad enough losing St. Michael’s and the Kickham Barracks,” said the current mayor.

Local Fine Gael TD, Tom Hayes, said: “This is great news for the rate payers in South Tipperary. He went on to say that the changes will mean local services to people should become “a lot more streamlined as a result.”

Clonmel was presented with its charter and became a ‘free town’ by King William 11 in 1600.

The new Municipal Districts will cover an entire county and will be built around the main towns and hinterlands. The areas will be drawn up by an independent committee, to report in early 2013.

On Tuesday Minister Hogan released the policy document, entitled ‘A guide to: Putting People First.” Describing it as “the most fundamental set of changes in local government in the history of the state” the minister went on to say the plan will introduce “more effective democratic arrangements.”

The plan aims to rebalance representation nationally and between electoral areas within counties, and to eliminate duplication of functions.

Local services administered by the new local authorities will be funded through a property tax. A new, independently chaired National Oversight and Audit Commission for Local Government will be established.

The position of County Manager is to be replaced with a Chief Executive.

A new Director of Services for Economic Development post will be created to enhance economic development and job creation. Another new post of Customer Service Officer will be part of an enhanced customer complaints initiative and local authorities will be required to provided good quality public information which will include a new website to deal with non emergency issues including streetlight, water leaks, graffiti, road defects etc.

The overall maximum expenditure for the attendance of councillors at conferences will be significantly reduced.

Savings of E420 million to the state are to come from the changes when they are fully implemented.