while the effect of the merger of the local authorities has been marginal at best on the public, for many council staff, it has proven challenging.
Workers who had for years faced increased duties as a result of the moratorium on recruitment have found their roles have changed at short notice, and in some cases their responsibilities increased.
Many councillors have been left frustrated when seeking answers to queries from their constituents, with Sinn Fein’s northside member Maurice Quinlivan saying staff are under “huge pressure”.
SIPTU’s Con Casey represents 200 of the 1,000-plus staff working for the City and County Council, mainly outdoor, front-line workers - labourers, craftsmen and so on.
He says staff roles following the merger are still subject to discussions, which continue in the new year.
“The picture will be much clearer at the start of March. The services are under pressure for obvious reasons, but the whole concept of having to find efficiencies has added to the stress,” he said, “Their effectiveness has been reduced through no fault of their own”.
Mr Casey said the provision of services from council staff remains “excellent”, in spite of the much reduced membership.
For many former county staff, particularly in housing, the needs of the city have proven to be a challenge. The urban areas have no doubt presented more challenges to staff who were not used to dealing with as many applications for social housing, and grants for the vulnerable, one council staff member - who did not wish to be named - pointed out.
Cllr Maurice Quinlivan - who is also a member of SIPTU, the largest union at City Hall and County Hall - said: “People do feel they are being given too much responsibility. Most of the staff who work at the council are very good, and committed to making Limerick better. But a lot of them feel under huge pressure. You can see the cuts in services across the city, you can see cuts to the environment department, in that you do not get the streets swept as often as you would like.”
The northside councillor said unlike in the former City Council, at times when he telephones different sections, he ends up speaking to several different parties.
The first citizen of the City and County Council, Mayor Kevin Sheahan said the way staff have responded to the challenge of the merger has been “excellent”.
“If proof was required - and it is not - Limerick City and County Council were recognised by the Irish Chamber of Commerce as the best local authority in Ireland. I was honoured to be present in Dublin at the event to accept the trophy from Alan Kelly. There were several pieces of the jigsaw which made this all possible,” he said.
Cllr Sheahan said these were council management, staff, unions and politicians. “All of us were doing very well to be recognised as the best local authority in the country,” he added.