Concern that town councils may be ‘wound down’

The elected members of a South Tipperary town council have been assured the services their local authority provides won’t be wound down over the next year ahead of its abolition in 2014.

The elected members of a South Tipperary town council have been assured the services their local authority provides won’t be wound down over the next year ahead of its abolition in 2014.

Acting Town Manager of Carrick-on-Suir Jim Harney told Carrick-on-Suir Town Council’s public representatives that all town councils will continue in their current form until the local authority elections in June, 2014.

“There won’t be a gradual wind down,” he assured them. “You are legally constituted and you will continue to meet as a Council but you will have a new situation after the next local elections.”

The Town Manager was speaking at Carrick-on-Suir Town Council’s December meeting where Independent Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald had sought information on how the re-organisation of local government in the county will impact on the Town Council and Carrick-on-Suir.

Cllr Fitzgerald expressed disappointment with the written response he had received from the Council and complained that he hadn’t been able to get a meeting with the relevant Co. Council official to answer his questions about the reforms coming in 2014.

The impression he got was that there would be a gradual wind down of the Town Council’s staff and services in 2013 and it would become a “neutered body” with no powers.

Mayor Liam Walsh supported Cllr Fitzgerald’s comments. He said their constituents were asking them what was to going to happen. He called for councillors to be kept up to date on the amalgamation of North and South Tipperary Co. Councils and the abolition of the Town Councils.

After reassuring Cllr Fitzgerald that the Town Council will not be wound down in 2013, Mr Harney explained that a Boundary Commission was appointed in recent weeks to draw up the new local authority structures and it had to produce its report in May next year.

Until that report was published, everyone was only guessing and surmising about what will happen, he said.

“The Town Council will be open for business up to June 2014 and after that I imagine it will be part of a larger municipal council. I am not privy to any inside information on that. I am no wiser than yourselves,” he added.

Mr Harney believed that while the abolition of the town councils will have a major impact on Carrick Town Council, the merger of the two county councils will have very little impact.

“If and when information becomes available, you will be fully informed. You are entitled to that,” he promised.

Fianna Fail Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan said it was up to them as councillors to keep lobbying on behalf of their constituents at the same level.

“As far as I am concerned nothing is going to change until 2014. We won’t be accepting any downgrading of services. The Co. Council is still continuing at the same level,” she told the meeting.

She described Minister Hogan’s decision to abolish the town councils as “despicable” and they would be arguing that Carrick-on-Suir still has to be a main player in the new local government structures as it was a still a main town.

Her party colleague Cllr Kieran Bourke said Minister Hogan hadn’t thought these reforms through and it was unfair that the Council’s management, officials and public representatives didn’t know what was happening. He questioned whether Minister Hogan knew what was going on himself. He said if Minister Hogan’s track record was anything to go by, he didn’t believe the Government would have a plan in place by next May.