Minister Phelan publishes report of Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Galway
Mr. John Paul Phelan T.D., Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, announced today (26 April 2018) that the second report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Galway in relation to local government arrangements in Galway has been presented to him today by the Group and is available on the Department’s website.
The report endorses previous recommendations for the amalgamation of Galway City and County Councils, to take effect not later than 2021, but recommends that the existing councils as currently constituted should continue for the purposes of the 2019 local elections.
In 2015, a Galway Local Government Committee unanimously recommended the establishment of a new unified Galway authority rather than boundary alteration or retention of the status quo. The Group concluded that this would maximise the potential of the region to maintain, secure, and grow a sustainable economic base into the future, combining the respective strengths of the two existing authorities in terms of resources, staff, and expertise.
Arising from the 2015 report, an Expert Advisory Group was established in December 2016 to carry out further detailed examination and planning arising from the 2015 report and to provide detailed information and any further recommendations considered warranted. It was open to the Advisory Group to vary the recommendation of the 2015 report if that appeared to be warranted by the more detailed examination. In a short Interim Report submitted in June 2017, the Advisory Group confirmed, on the basis of its more detailed analysis of local authority services and related financial matters, the recommendation of the 2015 report for a unified local authority.
The second phase of the Advisory Group’s review has now been completed, dealing with other aspects of its terms of reference, particularly governance and representational aspects, and the report which has now been submitted sets out the findings arising from this work. The main recommendations of the report are as follows:
The Group endorses and confirms the recommendation in the 2015 Galway Local Government Review Committee Report for amalgamation of Galway City and County Councils, and states that this is now all the more urgent in order to capitalise on the funding opportunities under the National Planning Framework and the Capital Programme and to have the capacity to engage in activity such as capital development funded by borrowings. The Group is unanimous in its view that amalgamation is required to drive the development of Galway, in the context of its regional, national, and international remit. Other key specific recommendations are as follows:
- A Ministerial decision should be taken on the Group’s recommendations and be legislated for as a matter of urgency, to provide certainty.
- The scheduled 2019 local elections should be held to the two existing local authorities as currently constituted, but the amalgamation should happen no later than 2021.
- The members elected in 2019 to each local authority should combine to form the membership of the unified Galway City and County Council on the date of amalgamation, with the first elections to the unified authority to be held in 2024.
- The recommended amalgamation must be preceded by addressing noted deficiencies in both human and financial resources noted by the Group.
- At representational level, the structure of Municipal Districts must be strengthened and their full potential explored and resourced.
- Further work is required in relation to some of the Group’s terms of reference, issues raised in consultations, and the implementation process.
Welcoming the report, Minister Phelan said “I will be bringing proposals to Government shortly arising from the report and dealing also with other aspects of local government structures and governance, including details of the legislation to provide for the alteration of the boundary between Cork City and County”. These proposals are among a series of modules on local government matters which will address the requirement in the Programme for Partnership Government for a report to Government and the Oireachtas on further local government reform themes.
“I would like to thank the members of the Group for the huge amount of time and work they have devoted, on a purely voluntary basis, to this role and the production of two reports which are an important contribution to our proposals on local government reform” said Minister Phelan, who added “I must pay particular tribute to the Group’s Chair, Professor Eoin O’Sullivan, for his exemplary leadership both of this Group and the previous review in 2015. His professionalism is matched by his commitment, as a Galway native, to furthering the success of the city and county which has been the key feature of the Group’s work.”
Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Galway – members
Chair: Professor Eoin O’Sullivan, Head of School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin;
Mr. Ned Gleeson, former Limerick and South Tipperary County Manager;
Mr Kevin Kelly, Chief Executive, Galway County Council;
Ms Hannah Kiely (until May 2017), Galway Chamber of Commerce;
Mr Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive Galway City Council.
Professor Eoin O’Sullivan also chaired the Galway Local Government Committee, which reported in December 2015; Ms Kiely and Mr Gleeson were members of the Committee.