City Councillors have expressed their opposition to merging Galway’s local authorities at this month’s council meeting, while city management says it will benefit Galway.
The Cabinet recently voted to merge Galway’s councils into a single local authority by 2021 but some councillors have expressed their disappointment with this.
The Councillors at this month’s council meeting were adamant that an amalgamation of the two authorities would have a negative effect on the city, causing a lack of funding,and a reduction in democratic voices, with authorities already understaffed.
Mayor of Galway, Pearce Flannery was adamant that the move to amalgamate both the City and County council into one local authority would cause the City Council to suffer.
He stated that the County Council are already stuck for money and feels that the city is in turn being used as a solution.
Cllr Ollie Crowe vehemently supported the views of the Mayor Pearce Flannery with regards to the amalgamation which he criticised. He said under no circumstances would he be supporting the amalgamation and feels the city needs to be put first.
Cllr Mark Lohan suggested that the amalgamation could cause a reduction of the democratic voice with Cllr Mike Cubbard also stating that he wasn’t in agreement with the amalgamation.
Meanwhile Cllr Mairéad Farrell stated that the powers bestowed on local councillors were very little as is and that city opportunity for local areas to voice concern will diminish if it’s progressed.
Chief Executive Officer Brendan McGrath on the other hand supported merging the councils, claiming that Galway could receive maximum funding to develop key sites under the National Planning Framework with a single local authority.
The key sites mentioned were, Ceannt Station, Galway Harbour Land, the Crowne Site at Mervue, Nun’s Island, Eyre Square East and a site at Headford Road.
The views of CEO McGrath were seconded by Councillor Cathal Ó Chonchúir who felt that the hinterland needs to be looked at. He mentioned the Ros a Mhíl & Galway Port and the numerous people commuting suggesting that both authorities need each other.
The Cabinet were presented with a report from Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform Paul Phelan recently which endorsed the recommendation of the Galway Expert Advisory Group to merge the city and county councils.
The Expert Advisory Group, led by Galway native Professor Eoin O’ Sullivan, published its second interim report on the Galway Councils on April 26th.
It recommends that local elections for May 2019 be held as planned for the city and county councils as they are, but that amalgamation should take place no later than 2021.
All elected councillors, 37 county councillors and 18 city councillors, will then sit on a unified council body until the 2024 local elections. It is expected that the electoral boundaries of municipal districts will be redrawn to accommodate the new council structure.
The report by the Expert Advisory Group found that a merged council would be a better local economic development, “an amalgamated Authority combining Galway City Council and Galway County Council, will maximise the potential of the region to maintain, secure and grow a sustainable economic base into the future.”