Two leading figures in the Labour party in Tipperary have publicly disagreed where the new county VEC should locate its headquarters.
Last week it was confirmed by Labour Minister Ruairi Quinn that South Tipperary VEC would be merged with North Tipperary VEC, under government plans, but this week the party’s two top figures in the county have publicly disagreed where the new body’s headquarters should be located.
North Tipp based Junior Minister, Alan Kelly, welcomed the merger announcement as preferable to the proposal of the last government, that South Tipp merge with Waterford and North Tipp merge with Clare VEC. However, welcoming the news he made a case for the new headquarters to be located in his home base of Nenagh.
This argument is not accepted by Clonmel-based MEP Phil Prendergast, who says that ‘good planning’ would favour Clonmel as the location for any new headquarters of a joint VEC.
Minister Kelly said he has already lobbied the Minister for Education and Skills on Nenagh’s behalf. “Having spoken many times and at length to my colleague Minister Ruairi Quinn, he agreed to my suggestion that it would be a much more sensible choice to merge the two VECs along county lines. This decision represents a much more coherent and sensible choice than that offered by the previous government. Common sense finally prevailed.
“Since last week I have spoken to Minister Quinn to illustrate to him my clear beliefs that the headquarters should be located in Nenagh. The facilities and structures are here in Nenagh. We in Tipperary have the dedicated and hardworking staff across the VECs that will be more than capable of dealing with any necessary changes. I am very hopeful that he will consider this request positively.”
However MEP Prendergast has made a strong argument for the main town in South Tipp. “Clonmel is far and away the largest town in Tipperary and the South Riding has a much larger population. Good planning practice therefore favours Clonmel but the issue is more complex.
“While there will be no compulsory redundancies, issues such as the uptake of voluntary redundancy across the whole public service and the willingness of staff to relocate will have a bearing on the outcome. The saleability of property and the terms of leases will also come into the equation.
“For public confidence to be maintained a transparent decision-making process is essential. The country simply can’t afford local pleading to influence decisions.
“The aim is to achieve the most efficient management of our VECs while bringing down costs. This means there will be no reduction in services to the public which is the crucial point.
“Staff everywhere work very, very hard and the ability of staff doesn’t dictate where the headquarters should be. If North and South Tipperary are to be merged then the logistics that dictate where the headquarters will be located should be the size of the site and the ability to build on.
Reaction to the confirmed merged of the VEC’s has also come from the IMPACT trade union. Pat Bolger, Assistant General Secretary, IMPACT, in response to the decision said “IMPACT is disappointed that the Minister has halved the number of VECs.
“The VECs are very much community centred and have an important local role in all counties. The union would have preferred that the mergers would have been at county level.
“However, we believe that the boundary structure is more coherent than that proposed by the last Government. We are also interested in exploring re-branding and reform of the sector to develop and expand services.”