16th October 2012
The Government today announced plans to reduce the number of city and county councils, restrict the role of local representatives in the planning process, and reform how local authorities are funded.
Many of the changes will have implications for council workers, which IMPACT says will be managed through the Croke Park process. This means that there will be no compulsory redundancies and staff subject to change – including any redeployment or relocation – will get protections set out in the agreement.
As part of the “most radical overhaul of local government in the history of the State” Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has also signed off on a targeted voluntary redundancy scheme that will be implemented only if other options, such as redeployment, are exhausted. He said an additional 500 staff could be taken out of the local government system over the next 18 months, with projected savings of €45 million a year.
Full details of the redundancy scheme are not yet available, but it is expected to have the same terms as limited redundancy schemes of recent years.
Minister Hogan said other measures, like leave standardisation, workforce planning and shared services, could also be considered as part of a wider public sector reform programme. He acknowledged that local authorities had already achieved the highest proportionate staffing reduction of any sector in the public service, with staff numbers reduced by almost 8,500, or 23%, since 2008.
IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly said the union would be meeting departmental officials later this week to get a formal presentation on the proposals and how they could affect staff. “We will be reaffirming that any changes for staff will be managed through the Croke Park agreement, which has already been used successfully to deal with much broader changes in the local government sector and across the public service,” he said.
The headline reforms will see the number of councillors reduced by 42 per cent and the number of local authorities cut from 114 to just 31. All 80 existing town councils will be replaced by municipal governing bodies that will merge town and county authorities. The number of council seats will fall sharply from 1,627 to below 950.
According to the Minister, his plans will save taxpayers €420 million over four years. He said the changes aim to rebuild the public’s trust in local government. Today’s announcement has also confirmed that services administered by local authorities will be funded through a local property tax expected to be in December’s Budget.