Job losses likely as Limerick councils prepare to merge

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

UP to a quarter of the 1,300 staff working in Limerick’s City and County Councils could be cut in the next three years, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has said.

UP to a quarter of the 1,300 staff working in Limerick’s City and County Councils could be cut in the next three years, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has said.

The two offices – at Merchant’s Quay and Dooradoyle – are major employers in Limerick, despite the public sector recruitment freeze.

However, answering questions from Mayor Jim Long on the new single authority, Minister Hogan said the job losses when the two authorities come together will be “somewhere in the region of 20 to 25 per cent”.

He said he hopes to find these savings from retirements and the non-replacement of staff, however, while the cuts would come from staff at both County Hall and City Hall.

However, Mayor Long has played down the impact of the reduction.

“People will be leaving and retiring so we would not be making 400 people redundant. This will be looked at very carefully,” Cllr Long said.

But Cathaoirleach Mary Harty did concede there are likely to be some redundancies.

“I would hope they would take place over a long period of time, and handled sensitively,” she said.

But Minister Hogan disclosed to Mayor Long that the city would remain the “urban driver seen as the generator of growth and focus for development for the entire region”.

It has been revealed that former Kerry Group chief executive Denis Brosnan will chair the implementation committee responsible for merging Limerick’s city and county council services.

He will be joined on the committee - codenamed the Limerick Reorganisation Implementation Group –by Shannon Development chief executive Dr Vincent Cunnane, county manager Ned Gleeson and city manager Tom Mackey.

The group will be assisted by Ned O’Connor, a former manager of South Tipperary County Council. They will work to ensure that arrangements are in place for the new combined authority to start its work by the time of the 2014 local elections.

Legislation will be brought forward by early 2012 to cover transitional management arrangements.

The committee has 14 terms of reference, including the establishment of effective project management arrangements, rationalisation of functions, and taking the appropriate action to make €15m worth of savings in the authorities.

The group will also look at joint administration with the neighbouring Clare County Council in order to deliver functions for people in the Clare-controlled city suburbs of Westbury, and Shannon Banks. At the moment, residents of these areas have to travel as far away as Ennis to access some services.

The implementation group - which must publish its first report by October 31 - will be answerable to a political committee, which will monitor its work. Cllr Long confirmed that he and Cathaoirleach Harty will sit on the working group, alongside eight local councillors - four from the city and four from the county.