THE cabinet has formally approved proposals to amalgamate Limerick City and County Councils.
As exclusively revealed by the Limerick Leader two weeks ago, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has decided to implement the main recommendations of the Local Government Committee, chaired by Denis Brosnan.
The move means Limerick is the first county in all of Ireland to see its two authorities amalgamated. More could now follow.
From September 2014, Limerick City Council will be replaced with a new amalgamated unitary authority covering a population of more than 184,000 people. But the Clare estates of Shannon Banks and Westbury will not be subject to the far reaching reforms. The northern campus of UL will also not be subject to any boundary move.
Meanwhile, there will be a mayor of the new authority – a plumb job with a five-year term – while the regeneration agencies will be subsumed into the new authority.
Between now and 2014, a management team is to be put in place to oversee the amalgamation of the two authorities. However, the full details regarding the exact make-up of any new authority may not be known for some months. But councillors are set to meet next Monday afternoon to work out their next move.
Minister Hogan said the new deal will bring with it savings of some €15m.
“This decision to restructure Limerick to a single local authority is among a range of local government reforms which will be implemented in accordance with the Programme for Government. We are implementing the core elements of the Committee’s recommendations.This decision will allow the authority to address the social, economic and administrative issues affecting Limerick by the creation of a single local authority under the leadership of a single elected council and single management,” he said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan added: “This decision will not only give a new impetus to Local Government in Limerick but will have a significant economic benefit for both the city and the county. Limerick is a key gateway city and the merger of the two local authorities will position the city for the economic advances which are necessary for the benefit of the people of Limerick.”
But the news was met with criticism at Limerick City Council’s meeting last night. Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan said: “It’s very disappointing. We have to see what happens from here.”
Fine Gael’s Diarmuid Scully added: “Obviously, it is not what we were looking for: we were looking for a boundary extension. The reality is the city needs to be supported, not supplanted.
Mayor Jim Long said he is pleased the first citizenship will remain.
“I have yet to see the full recommendations from the Minister, but I am confident that the new authority, with a population of 184,000 will have the capacity to meet our challenges and cement Limerick’s status as Ireland’s third city,” he concluded.
FOR FULL COVERAGE OF THE HISTORIC ANNOUNCEMENT SEE THE LIMERICK LEADER WEEKEND EDITION