Two South Tipperary councils facing the axe under Minister Hogan’s radical local government reforms have vowed to fight for their survival.
In the past week worried elected members of Clonmel Borough Council and Carrick-on-Suir Town Councils have gathered at specially convened meetings to discuss their response to the Government’s decision to abolish them in 2014.
The reforms outlined in Minister Hogan’s controversial 200-page document “Putting People First” were roundly condemned by councillors of all political persuasions at the special council meetings and also at Tipperary Town Council’s monthly meeting.
Clonmel Borough Council members resolved at their meeting to fight to retain Clonmel’s 800 year borough status. Under the local government reforms, the country’s five borough councils including Clonmel will be abolished and replaced by municipal district committees.
Mayor of Clonmel Billy Shoer has invited the eight Oireachtas members from north and south Tipperary and Labour MEP Phil Prendergast to meet with the Borough Council’s members at Clonmel Town Hall next Monday evening to seek their support for their campaign.
Cllr Shoer said Labour Junior Minister Alan Kelly has already indicated he will not be able to attend - “which was of little surprise”, said the mayor. The Mayor has also written to the country’s four other borough councils, Sligo, Drogheda, Wexford and Kilkenny calling on them to unite in their fight to save their councils.
At last week’s Borough Council meeting, concern was expressed by councillors that such radical reforms will leave members of the public under-represented in South Tipperary with a ratio of one councillor to 5000 people.
A furious Cllr Shoer said: “We don’t know how or where those municipal districts will be or where their boundaries will lie. The document talks about the role of the councillor and the extra powers that will be given when all that is happening is that powers are being taken away from them.
Labour Cllr Darren Ryan said while there was need for reform, he was not afraid to stand up and say the Labour/Fine Gael government had got it wrong in this case.
“There are some town councils in the country and to be brutally honest they don’t serve a purpose but if you take a town the size of Clonmel, there is enormous need for it,” he said.
The elected members of Carrick-on-Suir Town Council resolved at their special meeting to broaden their campaign to fight to retain Carrick-on-Suir as a seat of local government to the wider community.
The Council decided to organise a public meeting in the town over the next few weeks to which community groups and organisations like Carrick-on-Suir Business Association would be invited to discuss the town’s plan of action.
Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Liam Walsh said the abolition of Town Councils like Carrick-on-Suir’s was a “slap in the face” for local democracy and showed total disregard for people living in towns.
“Rather than reforming local government it’s just casting it to one side,” he complained. “If they (the government) were serious about it they wouldn’t have started years ago slipping their powers away.
“I am looking at these documents and seeing all these powers that are supposed to be devolved to muncipal areas. All this could have been done with the town councils. You are disbanding one arm of government only to form another,” he added. .
At Tipperary Town Council’s monthly meeting at the town’s new civic offices, councillors also voiced their deep anger and disappointment at the news.
Mayor of Tipperary Ruadhri Devitt said his biggest concern was that Tipperary might not have a representative from the town on the county council after the next election.
This concern had also been highlighted by county councillor Denis Leahy, who told the meeting that a town without a council was lifeless.
Cllr Leahy described the proposed Municipal Districts as a ‘joke’ because there was no forum for discussion.
Another independent Cllr Jacqui Finnan described the announcement as “blatant vandalism of our local democracy”.
It was not the answer and was not putting people first and never was there a more important time for people to be represented at local level, she declared.
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