“Decisions for Athlone will no longer be made in Athlone” says Molloy

Athlone’s longest sitting councillor concerned at abolition of town council

Athlone’s longest serving town councillor says he is very disappointed at the news that Athlone Town Council is facing the chop, and is concerned that decisions affecting Athlone will no longer be made in the town.

Cllr Molloy, who has sat on Athlone Town Council for the past 25 years and was also a county councillor for 18 years, says that without the power to make big decisions, Athlone may lose out on future development.

And despite previously announced plans to retire before the end of his term to let someone else take over his seat before the next local election, Cllr Molloy is now considering remaining a councillor until the reforms come into effect.

“I would have thought that large towns with their own local authority and rate base would survive, particularly towns like Athlone which are economically on a very sound footing.

“One could look at the progress of Athlone over the last few years in terms of infrastructure, with the civic offices, the art gallery, the sports centre - all these were initiatives of the town council and we have been able to budget for a lot of our own work,” said Cllr Molloy.

“I am concerned that decisions about Athlone will no longer be made in Athlone - will we get a fair share of development and infrastructure? We are already lagging behind Mullingar when it comes to sewerage and water.”

Under plans for local government reform, unveiled by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan this week, Athlone Town Council is to be axed. The number of councillors in Westmeath is to be reduced from 23 to 21, with the number of electoral areas in the county reduced from five to three “municipal districts”, each with seven councillors.

Cllr Molloy believes the changes will have a negative impact on local democracy.

“I’m not sure this will strengthen local democracy. People have already been stopping me in the street to ask me who will they go to now. I am very concerned at what kind of choices will be left to the public who want to make representations.

“People give out about the number of councillors, but I have found councillors to be very busy and always available to people. On all the councils I have served on, all councillors have worked tirelessly together in the interests of the town.”

Cllr Molloy added that he believes the reforms announced by the Minister were intended to impress people with “big numbers, such as the number of councillors going, and the saving of €420 million to be made”.

He is also concerned at the fate of Monksland on the Roscommon side of Athlone, which it is suggested will become part of the Athlone Municipal District under Westmeath County Council.

“I’m not sure how taking in Monksland would work, and I’d imagine elected representatives in Monksland wouldn’t be too happy. It makes sense for local authorities to cooperate on roads, sewerage, etc, and they do this already, but it is very hard to see how part of one county can come in and join another county.”

 

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