The post of Galway city manager could be abolished while the powers of the Tuam, Loughrea and Ballinasloe town councils could be greatly reduced if the recommendations of a new report are implemented fully.
If the report’s recommendations are carried out fully it could see the post of Galway city manager abolished, and the county manager running both the city and county instead.
The report has also raised fears that the proposed abolition of the manager’s post could be the start of a process of amalgamating the two local authorities, leading to the eventual extinction of the Galway City Council.
The Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, which reviewed the cost base, expenditure of, and numbers employed in the State’s local authorities, was published recently by the Minister for the Environment John Gormley.
Co Galway has two main local authorities - the Galway County Council, the Galway City Council - and three town councils - Tuam Town Council, Loughrea Town Council, and Ballinasloe Town Council - and is known as a joint administrative area.
The report calls for 10 joint administrative areas across the 20 county and city council areas to be established. This would allow councils to pool corporate functions and other service areas, with each joint administrative area under the responsibility of a single manager.
The report further recommends the number of county/city managers be reduced from 34 to 24; the number of directors to be reduced from 240 to 190; the number of senior and middle managers to be reduced by 15 per cent; and the number of corporate service staff be reduced by 10 per cent in the joint administrative areas.
Labour councillor Niall McNelis is concerned by the potential implications of the report and he is seeking assurances that the Galway City Council’s existence is not under threat.
“People in the areas affected by this proposal will be looking for reassurance that there is no proposal to scrap or merge the counties or the councils themselves,” he said, “and I will be looking for clarity from the Minister in this regard.”
He also pointed out that the local authorities have “borne the brunt of the public sector recruiting embargo” and that they have already reduced the numbers on their payroll by about 3,500 in the recent years. He said this “should be factored in to any future plans to further cut staffing levels”.
However Cllr McNelis did welcome the report’s recommendation to set up joint administrative areas between adjacent local authorities areas.
“There is no reason why we should not be able to pool corporate functions and other service areas, with each joint administrative area under the responsibility of combined management,” he said. “Certainly the functions of directors of service could be delivered on a joint administrative basis. However the situation with regard to the actual city and county manager is more complex and may need to be teased out to a greater extent.”
The report also recommends reducing the power of town councils and this would have an effect on the councils in Tuam, Loughrea, and Ballinasloe. It recommends responsibility for planning, roads, and housing functions should be transferred from town councils to county councils.
It also calls for the power to determine the annual rate on valuation to be removed from town councils, and town charges be applied in the same manner as other existing non-rating town councils.