NO decision has been made on where the new merged vocational educational committee offices will be - despite the Education Minister stating otherwise.
The existing 33 VEC bodies will merge into 16 new committees in 2014, with Limerick City VEC to join with the Clare VEC and the County VEC.
At present, the office in Cecil Street acts as a resource centre for learning opportunities and educational supports in the city.
But there are fears that when it does merge, the office in Cecil Street could close.
These fears were heightened at a meeting this Monday, when Fianna Fail councillor Kieran O’Hanlon, the former chair of the VEC, revealed a letter he had received from Minister Ruairi Quinn.
In it, he wrote: “Last October, I announced the locations of headquarters and sub-offices for those 16 bodies which will be renamed Education and Training Boards to reflect their wider role in the provision of education and training.”
Speaking at City Hall on Monday, Cllr O’Hanlon asked: “Is anyone aware these decisions have been made, or is this a false statement? Are we chasing a lost cause here?”
Chairman of the VEC, Cllr Denis McCarthy, Fine Gael, said: “We have been told this will be a matter for the new committee. It was made quite clear to us the new CEO [not yet appointed] will make this decision.”
Cllr O’Hanlon said the former labour exchange building, which has become available next door to the VECs Cecil Street base will be an ideal location to house staff if the new merged committee did come into the city.
He stressed the retention of the VEC in Limerick is crucial for the city’s survival.
“A lot of existing staff who have salaries there would have lunch, coffee and even a drink after work. There is a lot of business for the city in this. Also, a lot of customers are not in a position to pay bus and taxi fares to go to Ennis, or Dooradoyle [where the two other offices are],” Cllr O’Hanlon told members.
Northside councillor Kathleen Leddin said it would be “an awful sin” if the new committee was not in the city.
But Cllr Joe Leddin, a member of the City VEC, said although he backed the keeping of the committee in the centre, the Cecil Street office would not be left derelict.
“We need to be careful on the message we are sending out. The provision of services at the building will continue. It will not become a derelict state, even if we do not get the decision we want,” he told the meeting.
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