Union to oppose further public service centralisation after education grants and medical card debacles

Issued 16.05.14

Rural jobs at risk

Ireland’s largest public service union has said it will oppose any further centralisation of locally-delivered public services unless proposals can be shown to improve service provision. Delegates at the union’s conference in Killarney, county Kerry, today (Friday) also said privatisation and centralisation of local services was leading to job losses in economically depressed rural areas.

The union pointed to disastrous service failures that followed the centralisation of student grant applications, medical card applications and driving licence renewals. Speakers from Dublin pointed to increased charges for waste collection following privatisation, which had also led to dirtier streets and increased fly-tipping.

Eddie Walsh of the union’s Roscommon branch said IMPACT wanted to stop the piecemeal privatisation and erosion of services. “We once had efficient refuse collection. Now we see rampant illegal dumping. We have seen third level students forced to drop out of college because their grants weren’t processed in time. Nearly every member of the public knows the farce that continues to surround the driver licence service, which was removed from local authorities who had been providing the service with a satisfaction rating of over 90% from users,” he said.

Finbar Touhy of IMPACT’s Clare branch said the further centralisation of local authority services would also lead to job losses in rural areas. He said local authorities had collectively decided on another radical programme of centralisation of services including transfers of payroll services to Laois, accounts services to Kildare, and legal and veterinary services to Cork. “The agenda is clear. First strip out jobs and pay costs, then centralise services in one urban location, then offer those services to the private sector. The troika has left these shores, hopefully for good. They should have taken their private sector bias and privatisation agenda with them,” he said.

Mr Tuohy said these decisions were being taken behind closed doors, with no scrutiny of the impact on local jobs, services, or value for money. “My own authority in Clare is not due to host any new services. Our members see a relentless haemorrhage of jobs to other agencies and other authorities, reducing the number of public sector jobs in the county. We cannot ascertain the rationale for these decisions, but we can clearly see the consequences for jobs and services especially in rural areas. When the managers decided to strip out all these services, did they give any thought to the long-term implications for jobs and the future role of local authorities?” he asked.