Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Email to the members of Seanad Eireann

I am sending the following email (or slight variations of it) to ALL the members of Seanad Eireann. The evisceration of local government by Minister Phil Hogan and this coalition has, so far received little or no examination or exposure. I am convinced - having listened to everyone from the editor of The Irish Times in a recent speech, to speaking myself to academics well versed in the area - that the Ministers planned bill represents nothing more than a severe cut to an entire layer of local government and certainly not the real reform that he claims it to be. Every town in the country is to lose their town council and in our case, Waterford City is to lose its independent self-governing City Council status. I want to say that I firmly believe there ought to be serious reform and serious sharing of services but that should take place in consultation with local communities and it should comprise of real reform. Real devolution of power from the centre and not just lip service to reform while in actual fact wielding the scalpel to same. I have been somewhat taken aback at the lack of any examination of the issues, figures and claims emanating from the Ministers Press Office on this issue. It is not my experience that the media is prone to accepting what the Government spin doctors issue, as gospel.

The people of Ireland have demonstrated through the Seanad Referendum that they value our democratic institutions. I fought for the retention of the Seanad and for real reform to be introduced as opposed to just cuts. I now ask the Seanad to fight for nothing more or less than the same thing for Local Government.

Anyway, the email is self explanatory. I have sent five to date and will hopefully get the rest off this week. It is my last attempt to save local democracy and the independent self-governing status of my city, Waterford.

Dear Senator  ----------,

As you may remember I took a fairly active role on the NO side during the Seanad Referendum Campaign delivering leaflets and online. I firmly believe that real reform, as espoused during that campaign - as opposed to cuts is the way forward for the Seanad and for our democratic institutions. This leads me on to the purpose of my email. I am pleading with you and the other members of Seanad Eireann to oppose in a meaningful way Minister Phil Hogan's attempt to impose cuts without any meaningful reform in the area of local government.

I have read the legislation and consulted with academics in the area and all say the same thing - that this bill does nothing to reform local government. Further, that it merely cuts an entire layer out as well as crucially in my particular case, taking away Waterford City's independent self-governing status. And to add insult to injury, this, during the historic 1,100th anniversary of the oldest city in Ireland. And all this without any public consultation whatsoever. At the very least I would hope that you and the members of Seanad Eireann might insist upon the same yardstick being applied to local democracy that you sought for the Seanad: real reform, not simply cuts.

I would ask that you might consider taking a stand on this matter and oppose the evisceration of local government in Ireland. The Seanad should, in my opinion, demand very high standards for democracy and demonstrate that it is prepared to protect those standards further than just their own institution - as they were protected by the public who themselves obviously value our democratic institutions very highly - as evidenced by their rejection of the Seanad abolition. I am aware that the Seanad has limited powers but I am convinced that at the very least it should delay the bill for as long as possible (90 days) and that a rejection of the bill might impress upon the Minister and the Government that someone is prepared to stand up to them in the name of democracy and might force, if not a rethink, then at least a deferral and that local communities might be consulted with as to whether they wish to lose or retain their nearest democratic institution be that a town or in my case, city Council.

Many thanks ----------.

I look forward to your response.

Councillor Mary Roche
Waterford City Council

Sunday, July 14, 2013



I am posting the following letter to the Chairman of the Amalgamation Implementation Committee, Mr Sean Aylward, today. A similar letter will also go to Minister Hogan, Minister Howlin (who should know the costs), Minister Noonan (who will end up paying our money) and An Taoiseach. If I can't get answers, perhaps they can. As one assumes they did not allow this decision to be made on anything other than verified savings - which cannot be estimated in the absence of verified costs. I acknowledge I cannot stop the amalgamation - but by God I can hold those who made the decision to account. If there are costs: produce them. If not; stop claiming there will be savings, because, at best, you simply do not know!

Mr Sean Aylward
Chairman Amalgamation Implementation Committee
City Hall
The Mall

14th July 2013

Dear Chairman,

I wish to address a number of questions to the Implementation Committee following on from the publication of the Grant Thornton Report verifying savings associated with the amalgamation of Waterford City and Waterford County Council.

The Grant Thornton report, in my opinion, is entirely insufficient to address the concerns I have regarding the Amalgamation as recommended – on the basis of savings to be derived – by the Amalgamation Committee. We are 16 months after the decision to amalgamate and still we have not seen any details of costs.

I contend that ongoing additional annual costs will amount to a minimum of €.5 (half a million Euro). The City Manager himself has admitted – although with no details – one off upfront costs of €1.5 to €2 million. This is, of course not counting the cost of lump sums for any staff leaving/retiring/taking redundancy or indeed the ongoing pension costs, nor the lump sum payments to retiring Councillors. Nor does it take into account in either an annual payment or a one off, the combined deficit of the County Council of €6,900,000 million and the City of €500,000. There are also no costs included for time spent on the merger to date, nor indeed the travel costs associated with it. The City Manager did indicate that costs would be available within 5-6 weeks of the April Monthly Council meeting. When are we likely to receive details of all of these costs?
I would also respectfully seek a response to the following questions:

1) Given there is no scope for redeployment (according to the Grant Thornton Report and the City Manager), and that 86% of the savings envisaged (plus most of the ancillary savings on phones, training, transport etc.) are based on 67 job losses with 50% - according to this document - due to be lost in the first 18 months after amalgamation, and given that there is now a Voluntary Redundancy Scheme in place, can I ask: who will fund the scheme?  What happens if it does not attract the required numbers?
2) If the Voluntary Redundancy scheme does not attract the required numbers then how are staff reductions to be achieved? Will there be compulsory redundancy?

3) What is the timeframe for retirements based on actual retirement age of 67 current staff, who have already been identified - to achieve the required numbers?

4) Why does the Grant Thornton report say that the accumulating city budget deficit is unsustainable? As far as I am aware the City has no substantial accumulating budget deficit? Is this correct? The current County Council deficit is €6,900,000 from information we have been given. How is it proposed to deal with this deficit?

5) In what calendar year will the savings outweigh the costs?

6) Realistically, when can City rate payers expect to see an actual reduction in rates (if it is it possible to say, in the absence of costs)?

7) Why are only the savings being verified? Surely verifying costs are equally - if not more important - as it is possible that they could negate any savings and indeed lead to increased annual running costs as well as substantial capital costs?

8) Where does the City Council fall in relation to the current Employment Control Framework? And the County Council? Does the ECF in relation to the amalgamated Council allow for the fact that we will have to support two ‘main’ offices as opposed to one?

9) Should the Members savings in Year 1 of the Grant Thornton Report only be a half year due to the elections not being held until May/June?

10) Is it realistic that there is no provision in Kilmacthomas for the Comeragh Municipal Area to have an office/staff?

11) How is closure of 3 area offices (Tramore, Lismore & Kilmacthomas) providing enhanced delivery for the public in keeping with ‘Putting People First’?

12) Why is there no financial provision for, or mention of, the office of Mayor for City Metropolitan Area or indeed Chairmen for the two Municipal Areas?

13) What improvement in services can the public expect to see as a result of the merger?

14) Can you Chairman, or the City & County Managers, provide an estimate of pension provision, based on the answer to question 3 above, and the lump sums which will be one-off but which will have to be funded from the Local Authority budget annually?

15) Without any capital costs – which the Manager has estimated at €1.5 - €2 million, I guestimate ongoing additional annual running costs of over half a million Euro...has ANY work been done on costs? Both one-off upfront costs, and additional ongoing annual costs. When will the members receive them?

16) What was the cost of the Grant Thornton report and who is paying for it?

17) Has the City Council received the monies from the Department of the Environment to cover the cost of the Economic Development Plan required by the Amalgamation Implementation Committee? Where is that plan at? Is it completed and if so, can the members have a copy?

I look forward to a prompt response from the Implementation Committee even at this late stage, on these most urgent questions and issues - which ought really to have been dealt with prior to any amalgamation decision being made - in my humble opinion.

May I also take this opportunity to wish you all the very best in your new role in the Kings Inns.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Mary Roche

Waterford City Council

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rates, City Status & more

Dear Taoiseach,
I write on behalf of the retail community in Waterford City. There is currenty a rates re-evaluation under way here and the increases in rates that many in the small business community in particular are being expected to pay, will, quite simply, mean that many businesses that were just about weathering our long downturn will now inevitably fold.

I have spoken personally to one retailer whose rates are to jump by 750%! And this is a person who is newly in a craft business, working alone and who has been helped enormously by the local Waterford City Enterprise Board. What is the point of assisting a start-up business like this with one hand if we intend crippling it with increased charges with the other hand? To say it is counter-productive is to put it mildly! It is crazy. For a city like Waterford which is undergoing a huge period of difficulty and high unemployment - much higher than the state average, how can this be justified?

We have suffered huge job losses of which you are aware, our city is being downgraded by Minister Hogan in a move that has been labelled as a backward step by none other than the Council of Europe and last week, I chaired the last ever meeting of the City of Waterford VEC which is now to be head-quartered in another adjoining Ministers constituency of Wexford.

Taoiseach, you would not stand idly by and see this happen in your own constituency - yet we here in Waterford seem powerless to stop the pillaging of whatever small gains we have had, by Ministers who now see it as their 'time' - to hell with strategies, or consequences, or even the detriment of the entire South East Region!

Who will cry stop? Who will halt the destruction of the oldest city in Ireland? This is your Government, Taoiseach and you can help Waterford.

Put the rates re-evaluation on the back-burner at least. Consider giving a Minister or Junior Minister a specific brief for retail. Every sector from Fishery to FDI has a voice at cabinet. Why not elevate retail which provides so many jobs? Another consideration might be to allow Local Authorities some disretion to differenciate between different types of businesses.

Finally, I write - in vain I know - to ask you once again to reconsider the amalgamation of Waterford City & County. Despite asking for over a year now I still have not received any comprehensive costings associated with the merger. Please do not bother sending this to Minister Hogan as he hasn't got them either. There are no costings - only savings, which when looked at in the absence of costs is merely looking in the plus column without the counter-balance of the minus column. It would equate with doing a SWOT analysis with just the Strengths and Opportunites detailed - and nothing of the Weaknesses or Threats. It is but half the job. A ridiculous and financially unsound way to make any decision. Please look at this again Taoiseach - and at the very least, demand the costings. Follow the money.

Yours in defence of Waterford City.
Mary Roche

Councillor Mary Roche,
Waterford City Council,
City Hall,
The Mall,
087 2273206


Monday, April 15, 2013

City/County Economic Development Initial Analysis Document

I am printing here the Initial Economic Development Analysis Document prepared for the Implementation Committee and which was used to brief the Economic Consultants who have been employed (at a cost of about €50K as far as I can guess but perhaps more - or less *ha!*). This money is being provided by the Department of the Environment according to City Manager, Michael Walsh.

I print it because (a) it is an interesting document and it is worth a read (b) I hope to meet with the Economic Consultants at the end of this week and would welcome any input and (c) because in my view it illustrates beautifully the impracticality that the entire Amalgamation process will cause - covering as it does, the Economic development of everything from the city and environs, to the southern suburbs of Carrick on Suir, Dungarvan & environs, Tramore, Ardmore, Cappoquin, Tallow, An Rinn etc. and then on to Aglish, Heilbhic, Piltown(?) Touraneena, Villierstown and more......all deserving. All competing on different levels. All wanting their fair share as they see it. See point 2 in the body of the document for full details. It is, in my humble opinion, going to divert hugely from the focus that we need to be placing on the development of the city (and bear in mind that Cork, Dublin and Galway will be doing just that without any County areas competing for focus). The dominance of the city (or new Metropolitan Area as it is to be designated) will also inevitably take focus away from the County and its' needs. What you might call a LOSE/LOSE situation.

But for what it's worth, here it is. Please send your feed back either here as comments or email me at cllrmroche@waterfordcity.ie

Many thanks,


Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 1

This document has been prepared by the Waterford Re‐Organisation Implementation Group which
has a general mandate to oversee planning, preparatory work and initial implementation of the
reorganisation process of Waterford City and County Councils. The Terms of Reference include the
‘Identification of measures to maximise the capacity of local government to contribute to the
economic development of Waterford and its wider hinterland/region and, in particular, to enhance
the role of Waterford City as a generator of growth and a strong and dynamic focus for development
of the wider region’.
As a first step in this process, the current issues facing Waterford and the South East region have
been identified including sustained high levels of unemployment, low educational attainment and
Waterford’s failure to fully realise its potential as a gateway city under the National Spatial Strategy.
This analysis document outlines a process for undertaking the development of an Economic Plan to
address these issues and to help Waterford fulfil its role as a Gateway City. The document also
includes a number of high level interventions which the Implementation Group has identified which
will assist Waterford to become a driver of economic development for the City and the wider South
East Region.

The Forfás report ‘Our Cities: Drivers of National Competitiveness1’ highlights the important role that
cities play within their regions and that competitive cities drive competitive regions, by promoting
growth and employment. Cities act as economic engines for their regions providing a critical mass of
public and private institutions. Cities boost regions by creating employment for residents and they
provide national and international connectivity through the concentration of infrastructure. Cities
also facilitate regions by enhancing their international profile which is particularly important when
attracting foreign direct investment. The key role of cities within their region is further highlighted
in European Commission2 ‘State of European Cities Report’ which states that ‘urban areas play a key
role in driving the development of their hinterlands, and successful regions have a dynamic and
vibrant city at their core’.
Waterford’s failure to fulfil its role as a gateway city is evident across a number of variables including
unemployment, Gross Value Added and the Gateway Development Index. These headline statistics
are outlined in the following paragraphs and support the need for additional targeted resources to
address the issues currently facing Waterford.
The most recent figures for unemployment (Q3 2012) published by the CSO in the Quarterly National
Household Survey3 (QNHS) highlight that while at national level the unemployment figure was
15.0%, the figure for the South East was 19.4%. More localised data for Waterford City and County
from the Live Register4 show that the figures have stabilised at high levels of 14,176 in January 2013
which shows little change from the January 2012 figure of 14,516. The unemployment figures from
Census 2011 for Waterford City (25.08%) and County (19.14%) further reinforce this point when
compared to the figure for the State of 19.03%.
Monitoring of announcements in the media of job losses in Waterford further emphasise the
downward spiral of unemployment in the City and County. The most high profile of these recent
announcements was the loss of 575 jobs and the closure of TalkTalk in September 2011. Other
1 Forfás (2009) Our Cities: Drivers of National Competitiveness
2 European Commission (2007) State of European Cities Report
3 CSO (2012) Quarterly National Household Survey Q3 2012
4 CS0 (2013) Live Register January 2013
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 2
headline job losses include the closure of Waterford Crystal with significant job losses and the
shedding of 315 jobs in TEVA. Added to this are smaller losses in both IDA Ireland supported and
indigenous companies which have a significant negative impact on the local and wider regional
economy. Waterford’s importance as a regional level employer is highlighted in the Census 2011
figures which show that almost half (46.8%) of those working in Waterford are commuting into
Waterford for work5.
The most recently available report on the Gateway Development Index (GDI)6 published in February
2009 shows that the overall GDI Score for Waterford Gateway of 3.7 was the lowest of the
established cities (Cork 5.8, Galway 5.6, Dublin 5.4 and Limerick 4.7). The report references the low
presence of service occupations amongst residents as a long recognised weakness of Waterford’s
economic base. Waterford also scored low on a number of other important indicators including
adult education levels, return of Waterford graduates to work there and the level of third level R&D
earnings in the Gateway. Forfás7 also noted the challenge facing the region regarding skills
development as a result of the lower levels of educational attainment to third level.
Gross Value Added (GVA) is similar to GDP and measures the value of goods and services which are
produced within a region. The most recent ‘Indices of GVA per person8’ available from the CSO for
2009 show that each of the regions that are prospering have a strong urban centre or Gateway
driving the economy e.g. South West 122.7, Mid West 84.7 and West 72.9. In contrast the Indices
of GVA per person for the South East is 68.3 which highlights that Waterford is currently under
performing as a Gateway City compared to other gateway cities.


The Forfás report on the Regional Competitiveness Agenda reports that ‘the lack of genuine buy‐in
to Waterford as the regional gateway’ and ‘competitive dynamics within the region has limited the
realisation of the potential of the city as a driver for regional development’.
Given the importance of Waterford City as the key driver of economic growth within the wider
region, it is the belief of the Waterford Re‐Organisation Implementation Group that it is imperative
that IDA Ireland demonstrate their commitment to the South East region by relocating a Regional
Director to Waterford City. The Group has also identified a number of high level interventions
which would be of significance in putting Waterford and the South East on a more equal footing with
other cities and regions and which will contribute significantly towards the successful
implementation of the Economic Plan outlined in this document.

1. Waterford and Carlow Institutes of Technology be designated as a Technological University and
to receive the status and budget to fully deliver on their role as Technological University for the
South East.
2. The assistance of NAMA to facilitate the development of the Michael Street area in Waterford
3. A subvention over a period of three years to be provided to the Waterford City & County
Council to facilitate the writing off of existing debt and to make provision for expenditure on
prioritised capital projects.
4. Funding to be provided to Waterford Airport for necessary development works.
5. The world class Mount Congreve gardens to be opened and operated as a tourist attraction.
5 CSO (2012) Census 2011 Profile 10: Door to Door Commuting in Ireland
6 Trutz Haase & Fitzpatrick Associates (2009) Preparation of a Gateway Development Index: Report on Stages 1,2
7 Forfás (2010) Regional Competitiveness Agenda: Volume II – Realising the Potential South East
8 CSO (2012) County Incomes and Regional GDP 2009
9 Forfás (2010) Regional Competitiveness Agenda: Volume II – Realising the Potential South East
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 3
6. The transfer of the OPW site in Dungarvan to the local authority at nominal terms to facilitate
the development of the Mercyhurst Campus in Dungarvan.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 4

This document outlines a proposal on the approach to be undertaken in developing an Economic
Plan for Waterford City and County to help tackle the issues identified in the Appendix and to help
Waterford fulfil the role of Gateway City and driver of economic development within the South East
region. The Appendix highlights the issues currently facing Waterford and the South East region in
terms of unemployment, on‐going job losses, low educational attainment and the profile of those at

1. Economic Development will be a key priority of the merged Waterford City and County Council.
This represents a continuation and expansion of the economic objectives of both local
authorities. It builds on the considerable progress that has been made to create a business
environment which will attract investment and help to create jobs in Waterford.
Waterford has the physical attributes and agency support to make it an excellent business
• Waterford is highly accessible and is a major transportation hub with a national port and
regional airport. Waterford is situated on a number of critical and linking corridors which
provide access to the country’s other ports, airports and major cities. Key centres within
Waterford City and County are within one hour of Cork Airport, Ireland’s second busiest
airport with routes to over 60 destinations and 1hour 40 minutes to Dublin Airport.
• Investment in road and rail infrastructure has reduced travel times to key centres such as
Dublin and Cork. Reduced travel times mean that there is a population of 500,000 within one
hour of Waterford. Waterford City and County Council will continue to work with Waterford
Airport to improve access to the region.
• There has been significant investment in the water supply and waste water treatment systems
in the region, providing significant capacity if required by industry.
• There is a mix of property solutions available to businesses from strategic, serviced sites for
manufacturing, to high‐spec office space for internationally traded business services and
community enterprise centres providing more local solutions.
• Waterford and Dungarvan are connected to the Metropolitan Area Network providing resilient
dark fibre for commercial and education sectors at wholesale prices.
• Waterford Institute of Technology and Carlow Institute of Technology are merging as the first
step in establishing a Technological University for the South East. These combined Institutes
of Technology provide the region with a thriving and ambitious third/ fourth level institution
which attracts considerable research funding and offers courses at Doctorate level.
• Waterford is endowed with a wealth of built and natural heritage that create a unique mix of
visitor attractions and generate opportunities for tourism to increase its role as an economic
• The local communities, including Chambers of Commerce and local enterprise groups, are
mobilised, and action oriented, ready to welcome and support investment and job creation.
• The local authorities have prioritised economic development and have taken a ‘can‐do’
approach to supporting business. Both local authorities have established Economic
Development Units to stimulate economic activity and provide investors with a single,
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 5
simplified response from all local authority services. These units will be merged to provide a
seamless service to enhance economic development in Waterford.

1. A unified Economic Development Unit (EDU)/ Business Support Unit will be established within
the merged local authority for Waterford. This unit will be charged with coordinating an
Economic Plan. The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) will form part of this unit to provide supports
to small and micro businesses. In addition, the Economic Development Unit will provide a single
point of contact to all commercial developments in Waterford (See Page 12 for composition of

2. The Economic Development Unit will take a multi‐facetted approach to economic development
that encompasses urban and rural development and which recognises Waterford City as a
Gateway and the economic driver for the County and the wider Region in line with the National
Spatial Strategy and the Regional Planning Guidelines.
The approach to economic development of Waterford as follows:
The Economic Development Approach in Waterford
Level 1 Waterford Gateway
Level 2 County Town & Larger Towns – Dungarvan & Tramore
Level 3 Ardmore, Ballymacarbry, Cappoquin, Dunhill, Dunmore East,
Kilmacthomas, Kilmeaden, Lismore, Passage East, Portlaw, Stradbally,
Tallow, Sean Phobal / An Rinn
Level 4 Aglish, Annestown, Baile na nGall, Ballinroad, Ballyaneen, Ballyduff
Lower (East), Ballyduff Upper (West), Bawnfune, Bunmahon /
Knockmahon, Cheekpoint, Clashmore, Clonmel Environs, Clonea –
Power, Crooke, Fenor, Heilbhic, Kill, Knockanore, Lemybrien, Maoil na
Choirne, Piltown, Rathgormuck, Touraneena, Villierstown

3. The table above represents different approaches that will be adopted that meets the needs of
the Gateway, the larger towns, the smaller towns and villages and the rural areas. It mirrors the
settlement strategy of the City and County, and is consistent with the Planning Guidelines for the
South East Region. However, it is amended to reflect the existence of enterprise centres,
strategic sites, or development opportunity sites in each of the areas. This approach will apply
to a range of economic activities, including retail and commercial development and foreign
direct investment.

4. This discussion document presents an overview of the key components of an Economic Plan for
Waterford. It addresses the following:
• Implementation at local level of relevant national, regional and local strategies including but
not limited to the National Spatial Strategy, The National Recovery Plan, Action Plan for Jobs
2012, Harvest 2020, South East Regional Planning Guidelines, South East Region Employment
Action Plan, Waterford PLUTS 2004‐2020 and the Local Government Enterprise and Jobs
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 6
• Preparation of the Economic Plan informed by the newly established Economic Strategic Policy
• Attracting foreign direct investment.
• Fostering indigenous enterprise.
• Building tourism potential.
• Investing in access infrastructure with Waterford Airport as a priority.
• Supporting the knowledge economy.
• Stimulating commercial investment including in the retail sector.
• Supporting community and social enterprise; and
• Tackling the issue of long term unemployment and under employment.

5. It is important for Waterford to attract investments that will create employment for the full
spectrum of skills that are available in the region. Thus, the Economic Plan will aim to harness a
range of sectors and functions, including: commercial services, ICT, pharmaceutical and bio
sciences, agriculture and food, fisheries, tourism, retail, the green economy, and international,
national and local business services, crafts and trades services. Specific sectoral strategies will
be prepared for each of these sectors as part of the preparation of the Economic Plan as set out

6. A South East Economic Forum is to be established which will have a key role in identifying the
skills and training required to facilitate current and emerging industry needs to drive economic
growth across the region. As a member of this Economic Forum, the Director of Economic
Development for Waterford City & County Council will assist the Forum in identifying these
needs and implementing the necessary training.

7. This is a discussion document, representing the first step in the preparation of a comprehensive
Economic Plan for Waterford. The following approach will be applied to the completion of the
Economic Plan:

• A succinct consultation process with agencies, key employers, representative organisations
and local enterprise groups.
• A comprehensive analysis of relevant statistics relating to the labour market and
unemployment rates will be undertaken (See Appendix ‘Levels of Unemployment and Job
Losses in Waterford and the South East’).
• The definition of a vision for Waterford, that sets a bearing point for Waterford as a globally
competitive location, the development of knowledge economy, integration with social policy.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 7
• Establishment of development principles and objectives, that builds on the strengths of
Waterford, and support the well‐being of citizens.
• Agree actions and key performance indicators with implementation partners such as IDA
Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Solas, Waterford Institute of Technology, The Vocational
Educational Committee, local enterprise communities, and representative organisations.
• The Economic Plan will be adopted by both Waterford City Council and Waterford County
Council in advance of the final merger, and will transfer to the new merged local authority for

8. Commencing in February, the Economic Plan will be completed within 6 months and ready for
adoption by July, 2013. In the interim, this document will provide a framework for the
economic development priorities and work programme of the Economic Development Unit.

9. The Economic Plan will inform all plans, policies and strategies prepared and adopted by local
government in Waterford, ensuring that there is strategic alignment between the economic
objectives, and those of the spatial plans, culture plans etc in the area.

10. The economic priorities will be continuously informed by the private sector. To achieve this,
Economic Development Unit will host an economic forum, made up of the CEOs of the key
employers (clients of IDA, Enterprise Ireland or businesses employing more than 100,
representative organisations, and local enterprise groups).

11. The following will be the key components of Waterford’s strategy to attract Foreign Direct
Investment (FDI). This strategy will be implemented in association with IDA Ireland. As set on
the following pages, Waterford offers a range of offices and sites that are suitable for
manufacturing, the pharmaceutical sectors, food production, research and development and
internationally and nationally traded business services.
• Attract new investments by providing a spectrum of property solutions including advanced
property solutions, skills and other supports required by international investors.
• Prepare and implement a promotional campaign in association with IDA Ireland. This will
build on the Waterford Connect and Invest promotional tool that was developed by IDA
Ireland for Waterford Gateway.
• Expand the range of functions being conducted by clients of IDA Ireland already present in
• Regenerate the IDA Business Park.

12. Waterford City & County Council will investigate the potential to further develop established
linkages with Rochester, New York for the economic advantage of Waterford.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 8

13. The property mix is under both public and private ownership is set out below for the Gateway
and the investment approach to towns and villages outlined on page 4.

Publicly Owned
• The Belview Zone is a Strategic Investment Site which Incorporates 265hectares, of which 55
hectares is under the ownership of IDA Ireland. Glanbia has secured an option to develop a
considerable dairy processing plant at this site. This site is fully serviced with significant water
facilities capable of supplying 3,300 cubic metres of water per day. The site also has access to
high capacity fibre optic network and can provide 270,000sq ft of racked storage including Irish
Medicines Board licensed pharmaceutical high bay warehousing. Belview is suitable for food,
pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.
• Knockhouse is a fully serviced Strategic Investment Site, adjacent to the IDA Industrial Park.
IDA Ireland owns an 18.2ha greenfield site at Knockhouse. Knockhouse is suitable
pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.
• Waterford Knowledge Campus is a 163ha site that is primarily under the ownership of IDA
Ireland and Waterford Institute of Technology. The site currently hosts the Arc Labs
innovation centre and data centre, along with advanced office space. It also holds a sports
arena which can accommodate conferences of up‐to 2,000 people. IDA Ireland has submitted
a planning application to develop a Business Technology Building at Waterford Knowledge
Campus. Waterford Knowledge Campus is suitable for ICT, business services, research and
innovation and light manufacturing.
• IDA Industrial Park on the Cork Road covers 129.5hectares and accommodates over 40
enterprises with approximately 5,500 employees. There are a number of small infill sites and
some vacant units owned by IDA clients which could be developed.
Privately Owned Sites
• Former Waterford Crystal Site is a 14.5hecatre site with over 50,000 sqm of buildings. The
site is suitable for a mix of commercial services and manufacturing.
• City Centre Offices including Maritana Gate, which caters for offices from 350sq ft to 12,000sq
ft. These are suitable for local, national and internationally traded business services and are
connected to the Metropolitan Area Network.
• Cleaboy Business Park: has units ranging in size from 3,000sq ft to 12,000sq ft.
• Kilmeaden Fields is a 26ha serviced site with a tradition of manufacturing. The site is under
the ownership of Glanbia Plc.
• Waterford Airport: The Waterford Business Park offers a number of premises adjacent to the
airport. In addition, there are lands zoned adjacent to the airport to attract investment by
businesses associated with the aviation industry.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 9

Level 2 – Large Towns
• Dungarvan: There is a total of 97 hectares zoned industrial site in Dungarvan, of which
20hectares is under the ownership of IDA Ireland. A range of profile employers are located in
Dungarvan including GSK, Eurofins, Microbush and Glanbia.
• Tramore: Ballinattin is a 120 hectare site zoned for a mix of uses including industrial use. In
addition, there is a 30ha site at Pickardstown, Tramore zoned for commercial uses.

Level 3 – Towns & Villages
14. A range of sites are available in Tallow, Cappoquin and Kilmeaden. These are under the
ownership of IDA Ireland or the private sector. The Economic Development Unit will support
the promotion of these sites for light manufacturing.

15. The Economic Development Unit will support the expansion of the indigenous sector. The newly
established Local Enterprise Office, which will form part of the Economic Development Unit, will
work in partnership with Enterprise Ireland to foster indigenous enterprises, particularly in the
value added sectors, with potential for export and job creation.

16. A key component of this strategy will be to strengthen the network of enterprise centres in
Waterford including, Arc Labs Innovation Centre at WIT, and the Enterprise Centres at Waterford
City ‐ Community Enterprise Centre and the Kite Crafts Centre ‐ Dunhill, Dungarvan, Cappoquin,
Lismore and Tallow, with plans for the development of a crafts centre and enterprise centre at

17. In addition, the Economic Development Unit will ensure that there are property solutions for
smaller indigenous enterprises. Specifically, Waterford City & County Council will support the
development of enterprise parks at Cleaboy (Waterford), Riverstown (Tramore), Dungarvan,
Cappoquin, Lismore, Tallow.

18. Waterford City & County Council recognises the benefits of clustering. To this end, Waterford
City & County Council will develop specific sectoral hubs or centres of excellence throughout
Waterford with priority given to a food hub, creative industries, including television production
hub, ICT / telecoms, ecommerce, crafts. These will be located in areas best suited to the needs
of the cluster, with due regard to the economic approach outlined.

19. Waterford hosts a wealth of built and natural heritage and excellent access, and offers domestic
and overseas tourists a range of complementary urban and rural activities that are rich in
heritage, outdoor pursuits, ecology, flora and fauna etc. In addition, Waterford offers a number
of top‐class award winning restaurants. The Economic Development Unit will work with Fáilte
Ireland, the private sector and community representative organisations to develop and promote
the tourism product of Waterford. Over recent years both Waterford City and County Councils
invested significantly in tourism development.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 10
Key projects include:
• Reinstatement of the new House of Waterford Crystal Experience
• Opening of the Bishop’s Palace Museum and Medieval Museum
• Development of the Viking Triangle and appointment of new CEO
• Expansion of the network of walking and cycling routes.

20. In addition, a range of festivals and events have been successfully been developed such as: the
Tall Ships Race, Winterval, Waterford Spraoi Festival, the Waterford Harvest Festival, The Sean
Kelly Tour of Waterford, the John Treacy Classic, Waterford Festival of Food, 1848 Tricolour
Festival, Immrama Travel Writers Festival, Story Telling South East and St Patrick’s Festivals to
name a few. The Economic Development Unit will continue to support the development of new
festivals and events which have the capacity to attract visitors.

21. The Economic Development Unit will take a four pronged approach to tourism development
encompassing Product Development, Attracting Private Sector Investment, Supporting
Community Projects, Tourism Promotion:
Product Development

22. The Economic Development Unit will focus on the development of significant tourist attractions
in the Gateway and remainder of the County. Waterford City & County Council will support the
strategy being implemented by Fáilte Ireland, with additional projects that complement this
strategy and build on the strengths of the area. Priority will be given to:
• Development of the Heritage / Viking Triangle of Waterford City.
• Supporting the on‐going development of House of Waterford Crystal.
• Development of the world class gardens and estate at Mount Congreve.
• Harnessing the potential of the UNESCO Supported Geo Park.
• Support the expansion of Lismore Heritage Centre and tourist attractions in Lismore as a
Heritage Town.
• The development of a Mountain Bike Park on Coillte Lands.
• Development of Cycling and Walking Routes in the coastal areas, Comeragh Mountains, the
Knockmealdowns, and coastal areas. In particular the development of the railway walk that
connects Dungarvan with Waterford City.
• Supporting coastal tourism by developing the network of beaches, harbours and piers at
Waterford Estuary, Waterford City, Passage East, Cheekpoint, Dunmore East, Tramore, the
Copper Coast, Clonea, Dungarvan, Helvic and Ardmore.
• Development of the heritage trail, with a wealth of history from the Vikings to the Normans
and the Cromwell.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 11

Attract Private Sector Investment:
23. The Economic Development Unit will support the investment by the private sector in tourist
accommodation and tourist activities / products. In particular, the Unit will support investment
by the private sector in the full range of tourist accommodation, including caravan and camping
parks, hostels, guesthouses and B&Bs and hotels.

Support Community Development of Tourist Attractions and Promotion
24. Local communities and voluntary groups play a key role in developing tourist attractions
throughout Waterford including Waterford Civic Trust, Suir Valley Railway, Lismore Heritage, etc.
In addition, the Economic Development Unit will support the tourist community to develop and
promote tourism packages, such as activity holidays, promotion of the gardens and demesnes,
eco tourism, heritage trails, food tourism, educational tourism etc. A key element of the plan
will be to promote seaside resorts, in particular Tramore, Clonea and Ardmore.

25. The Economic Development Unit will also support the creative / arts and culture sectors as key
attractions / tourist activities. In particular, Waterford City & County Council will develop the
network of arts (including theatre) and heritage facilities in Waterford City, Tramore, Dungarvan
and Lismore.

Tourism Promotion
26. Develop a holistic tourism promotion plan that offers the full range of tourist activities and
accommodation in Waterford. The promotional strategy will be devised, funded and
implemented in association with the industry. The Economic Development Unit will investigate
the scope to establish an appropriate Tourism Committee similar in structure to the Destination
Waterford City Tourism Committee.

27. Waterford Airport is a key component of the economic infrastructure of the South East. The
airport can both enable an increase in tourist numbers to the South East, and improve the
attractiveness of the region to FDI. Over recent years there has been a decline in the number of
services and passengers using Waterford Airport. The Economic Development Unit will work
with the Airport to improve the level of services at the airport. In particular, the Economic
Development Unit will use the CPO and planning instruments available to it to assist the airport
to achieve its development potential. Priorities will include:
• Completion of the CPO to facilitate the Runway End Service Area and the Runway Extension
(Waterford County Council (Airport Lands) CPO No 1 – 2012.
• Facilitate the extension of the runway expeditiously. This should improve the potential of the
airport to attract additional air services.
• Work with Waterford Airport to attract additional air services to the airport.
• Work with Waterford Airport to implement the Master Plan to help attract aviation sector
industries, and internationally traded businesses that seek to be located adjacent to an
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 12
28. In addition, the Economic Development Unit will work with Kilkenny County Council to develop
the Port of Waterford at Belview.

29. To ensure that business in Waterford can continue to innovate and invest in research and
development it will be necessary to harness the knowledge economy. The Economic
Development Unit will support the development of the University for the South East. In
particular, the Council will support investment in research and development, patent
development and innovation. The Economic Development Unit will support collaboration
between academia and industry, by supporting the development of Waterford Knowledge
Campus as a national cluster of academic and commercial research.
30. The Economic Development Unit will support the development of high level research centres
with WIT, including ICT, molecular biology and tourism. In addition, Waterford City & County
Council will investigate the potential to develop a centre of excellence of analytics with
Mercyhurst University, USA.

31. A key challenge for Waterford is to foster the full commercial potential of the Gateway, large
towns and villages. This will be achieved by implementing a comprehensive retail and
commercial strategy that:
• Provides clarity on retail policy using a retail hierarchy, identifying specific sites in the gateway
and towns in Waterford;
• Provides an economic framework for the capacity assessment of both commercial and retail
developments that can provide investors with confidence to develop schemes.
• Waterford City & County Council will facilitate site assembly in key urban areas to enable
regeneration as the market requires.
• Implement a campaign to attract investment attracting a mix of local, regional, national and
international retailers.
• Develop a programme with the Chambers of Commerce and the retail sector to promote the
commercial and retail sectors of the gateways and the towns.

32. Community and Social Enterprise can play a key role in delivering a range of services, on a
commercial, but not for profit basis throughout Waterford. There are over 200 social
enterprises operating in Waterford City and County. Forfás is due to publish a report on social
enterprise in Ireland, and Waterford City and County Council will be at the forefront of
implementing this strategy.
Waterford: Driving the Local & Regional Economy Initial Analysis Document
February 2013 13

33. It is intended that the Economic Development Unit will be established by April 2013 and will
comprise of the following staff.
Role No of Staff
Director of Economic Development 1
Senior Economic Development Officer 1
Enterprise Board (LEO) 4
Economic Development Officer 2
Tourism Officer 2
Grade IV 1
Total Staff Complement 11

Monday, March 25, 2013

Savings Going Down & Down but still NO Costs - and NO Questions!

So. The motion (see previous blog post) was passed at the February Council meeting but the Manager indicated that he will not implement it. (I have asked the legal basis upon which this refusal is being made, as the elected Council has a Statutory right to undertake studies into our administrative area but have as yet not received this information.)

Personally I find it extraordinary that, at this stage of the game, we are still waiting for any costs for the proposed merger of Waterford City & County Councils. The (City) Manager has admitted that no costings have been prepared and yet we have Minister Hogan constantly referencing the savings that this amalgamation will deliver. How can this be? Why is no-one challenging him on this? The Minister does not have the facts - as the costs have not been detailed!


In Putting People First, the Minister claimed that there would be up to €9m in savings from the merger. The amalgamation committee estimated savings of between €5m and €8.95m but targeted the lower number of €5m. (The two Managers in their exercise submitted that there would be about €3.8m in savings - with just €1.8m of that attributable to amalgamation over shared services.)

Now in the latest (2nd edition) workforce planning document from the Implementation Committee I see the savings are down to €3.95m! Remarkably close to what the Managers originally put it at. Of that €3.95m, about €3m - according to the City Manager - is due to loss of staff with another €1m due to 'other' unmentioned savings. Although what they are we haven't been told either. Assuming the Managers figures are right - bear in mind they only attribute €1.8m as being DIRECTLY attributable to Amalgamation! €1.8m - and this, with NO COSTS factored in at all!


And so what about the costs? Seeing as how nobody seems to be willing to make a stab at this: I will. I say at the beginning however that I am no accountant and this is my best guess having observed the process so far and with my knowledge of what might need to be factored in. But sure, in the absence of anything else we can at least have a go! So! Here goes:

I reckon costs break into two parts: Front-loaded start up costs AND on-going long term costs.
I have tried to keep it as simple as possible but some figures need a bit more explaining than others.

I have tended to be conservative in my estimates however realistically this can only be a guide. There may be costs that I have not foreseen. However, if my 'guess' is way off the wall, no doubt that will be pointed out post haste :)

Up front costs:
IT/Phone systems completely integrated      1.5m
Offices changes/Council Chambers             0.3m

Staff costs to date (of working on merger)
10 X Management Team @ 20 days each = 200 working days                                      0.1m
Other Senior Staff – 5 X 20 days = 100 working                                                        0.045m

Future Staff Costs (working on merger - pre-merger)
Staff costs to June ’14                                                                                                  0.28m

Economic Director                                                                                                       0.12m
Development of Economic Strategy                                                                              0.05m

Total      (before amalgamation)                                                                             2.395m

Other costs which I have not detailed but which will accrue are: rebranding for new Council; new crest; new Mayoral Chains, new stationary and new branding for vehicles and uniformed staff etc.

Costs before a single Euro is saved could safely be estimated at a minimum of         €2.5million

On then to ongoing costs.....

Ongoing costs associated with Merger:
Man and Van on road daily travelling between City/Dungarvan (staff and van costs)             70K

Travel costs (Manager and Directors)
7 on team X 3 trips per week each = 21 trips X 1.25 hrs travel time =
26 hours per week X 52 weeks = 1,300 hours is an average of
33 weeks work for 1 Director, the cost of which would approximate to                                  
Cost of travel time for Mgr/Directors                                                                           100K

Cost of Travel Expenses (Mgr/Directors)
20 trips X 52 weeks = 1,020 trips X €40 expenses                                                 40,800K

Travel costs for Senior Team (grade 8’s)
13 Seniors X 2 trips weekly  X 1.25 hours = 32.5 hrs per week
X 52 weeks = 1,690 hours / 35 hours = 48 weeks or salary of 1 senior =                       90K
Cost of Travel Expenses
13 staff X 2 trips X 52 weeks X €40                                                                        54,080K

Cost of paying for Shared Services provided by other Councils                                     100K
(counter balanced if we win a bid to provide services)

Additional staff attendance @ events and meetings - evenings and outside bodies          50K
Additional expenses for Councillors travelling to meetings in City/DG                             50K

Additional Annual Running costs                                                                          €0.55m


ADDITIONAL UP FRONT COSTS (one off)                                                             2.4m
Lump sums – assuming 50 – 60 people through natural wastage (one off)                       6.4m

ADDITIONAL RUNNING COSTS (ongoing)                                                           0.5mpa
Additional annual pension costs (ongoing)                                                                   0.55mpa
Cost of servicing County deficit (if not taken by govt) (ongoing)                                    0.6mpa                                

Upfront COSTS                                                                                                          8.8m
Additional ongoing annual costs                                                                                1.1m

·        No allowance made for costs of servicing new additional Municipal/Metropolitan areas
·         Half of staff savings would be made anyway under Workforce Planning
·         Other savings probably achievable through closer working relations
·         Estimated very little savings to be achieved on outdoor staff
·         Any staff savings not realisable short term

Bear in the mind that costs are being accrued already while it could take 10 years (or longer) to achieve the savings required!

There will, eventually be personnel savings - but these would have mostly been delivered anyway because of the new National Workforce Guidelines...so they can't be claimed as amalgamation savings in my opinion.

Remember - the Managers accredited an additional €1.8m in savings for amalgamation over shared services.
My (conservative) calculations show that there will be on-going additional costs of at least €1.1m per year.

And this does NOT take into account the upfront costs which are already being accrued.

Now. Show me your costs please Minister. Or show me where mine are wrong.

I believe the savings will not be made in Waterford.
I believe the savings will not be made in Tipperary.
I believe the savings will not be made in Limerick.
I believe the Minister is breaking the system of Local Government in Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary for some mythical savings, not balanced against the relevant costs. This is, at best an uninformed strategy and and worst, reckless and irresponsible.

(Also bear in mind the hilarious but glaring elephant in the room that none of this addresses the issue of the spill-over of the city environs into South Kilkenny. It would be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous.)

When are we going to say stop - you cannot destroy our city?
Waterford is the oldest and noblest City in Ireland.
Why are we not up in arms to defend her?
Or, failing that, at least when are we going to start asking questions?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Motion for Council Meeting Mon Feb 11th

'That the members of Waterford City Council under Section 64 of the Local Government Act 2001 demand that a study be carried out by an independent expert or body (identified by the members) to examine the Local Government Re-organisation Committees recommendations; to undertake a complete cost benefit analysis and to test whether those recommendations are in accord or comply with the original Terms of Reference. We furthermore request the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government Mr Phil Hogan TD to suspend the work of the Implementation Committee to enable this report to the received and considered by the Council.'

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Letter to City/County Amalgamation Implementation Committee

Councillor Mary Roche

Waterford City Council

The Mall


Waterford City/County Amalgamation Implementation Committee

c/o Michael Walsh

Waterford City Council

The Mall


25th January 2013

Dear Committee Members,

Although I will not be meeting you as part of the City Council Delegation on February 4th I feel I simply cannot allow the publication of the Working Document on Customer Service Locations and Workforce Planning to pass without comment.

Firstly, in the interest of honesty, I wish to advise that I continue to oppose and fight the amalgamation of the City & County Councils as a travesty and something that will greatly diminish the City’s ability to compete on a national and international stage. I intend to use each and every means at my disposal to continue to have this decision delayed or overturned.

However I must also realistically accept that it may well proceed in any case and on that basis, and with a heavy heart I have some thoughts on your Working Document and the proposals contained therein which I feel are so serious that I must communicate them.

The original Terms of Reference required the Amalgamation Committee to have particular regard to:

• The need to maximise the capacity of Waterford City, in particular, to act as a strong and dynamic focus and generator of growth for the wider hinterland under the National Spatial Strategy, and that of other urban and rural areas to contribute in that regard in the context of balanced development.

• The need to ensure that that the particular status, identity, character and heritage of Waterford City are maintained and where possible, enhanced, within a balanced overall system of local government for Waterford City and County.

The sad part is that every single person I speak to – many in, or retired from positions of great seniority in local government – acknowledges that the current amalgamation strategy is wrong and will be a disaster. Yet it continues apace, given cover by the unsubstantiated claims of efficiencies and savings contained in the Report of the Waterford Local Government Committee.

It is obvious that the vast majority of submissions to that committee were ignored or the serious consequences outlined therein were simply not understood. The core failure was the belief by the committee that in any amalgamation scenario, the status of the city and its capacity to act as a generator for growth would be unaffected or improved. It is oxymoronic to divide and weaken an organisation and then to propose that as strengthening it. The Working Document further exacerbates this division and weakening and surpasses even my very worst fears of what amalgamation would mean for Waterford!

As a sop to political pressures, despite the City being ‘designated’ in name as the HQ of the amalgamated authority – in practice the City is to be divested of up to 50% of its current Senior Management Team and up to 50% of the Directorates of Service. It is even, farcically, proposed that the Gateway City should lose Planning, Roads, Finance and IS among other things, to Dungarvan. I would like to hear an explanation of how this strengthens the City.

Indeed the Committee even failed to recommend that the Council would meet continually in the so-called Corporate Head-quarters and should rotate between Dungarvan and the City. While the City is left with its name and Mayor mar-dhea, the obvious fact is that both the City/Metropolitan District and indeed the Mayor will be Junior to the Mayor/Chair of the overall joint authority and as such will have been relegated down a level from the other cities in Ireland who continue to be self-governing and with their own Senior Level City Council and Mayor. I appreciate the spirit of what the Amalgamation Committee was trying to achieve but sadly, the reality is that the City and Mayor will no longer be on a par with other cities.

I fail to see how any of the recommendations in the Working Document deliver on making the amalgamated authority anything other than weaker, less efficient and indeed, most probably more expensive – save for natural staff wastage and whatever efficiencies are in the process of being delivered via the National Shared Services Initiative currently underway.

For what it’s worth, the only correct course of action (other than reversal of the decision in its totality) is to do the job properly and completely and to make Waterford City the HQ in practice as opposed to in name only. Unfortunately this does not address the Mayoral issue unless the Mayor of the City was to be designated as the Mayor of the overall amalgamated authority, and I would certainly propose this. However I expect this too, for political reasons would be unacceptable.

Uniquely after this process, Waterford as a City will be disadvantaged geographically, economically and regionally in comparison to other Irish Cities. According to the Forfas Reports on the Performance of Gateways, there has been a lack of buy-in regionally of Waterford as the Regional Gateway.

What this Working Document proposes will exacerbate this lack of buy-in by demoting Waterford to the level of Wexford and Kilkenny and will give the perception of a shift in power in the region, despite Waterford being the largest population centre by a country mile! This will negatively affect the buy-in and indeed will feed in to that lack of ‘buy in’ regionally.

One must hope that, as a working document, this initial report is subject to change but my experience is that once something is committed to paper, change thereafter tends to be minimal. I hope I am wrong on this occasion and that the Committee has the will to correct these damaging recommendations.

If Waterford City is to be supported and strengthened through this process then at least have the courage to do the job properly and allow the amalgamated authority to be managed and led from the main population centre. With services provided 9-5 of course from Dungarvan and Tramore. No-one is suggesting that citizens in the rest of the County should experience any dis-improvement in service delivery! Otherwise the City will be the laughing stock.

I apologise for the extreme negativity in this submission but in my opinion, what we are at here, is damage limitation. Our historic city is under threat that will have century long consequences and whatever noble (if naive) aspirations the Amalgamation Committee may have had with regard to the protection of Waterford, they are now being sacrificed on the altar of political parish pumpery.

It is hard to see how any of this can be justified bearing in mind the Amalgamation Committees Terms of Reference.

It is hard to see how any member of the Implementation Committee can stand over this Working Document as delivering a strengthened City.

It is hard (indeed it is laughable if it wasn’t so serious) to see how any informed decisions could possibly be made without a detailed cost benefit analysis being prepared – in contravention of the Department of Finances’ own guidelines.

But here we are. This process certainly does not do what it said on the tin.

Yours sadly and sincerely,

Councillor Mary Roche

Former Mayor of Waterford City

Sunday, January 13, 2013


My thoughts following further examination of the Waterford Amalgamation Committee Report, Putting People First, Waterford City & County Council Implementation Committee Terms of Reference, Limerick City & County Council Implementation Committee Terms of Reference and Implementation Report and the Draft Waterford Implementation Committee Working Document on Customer Service & Workforce Planning:

(I wish to preface this article with the caveat that I completely oppose amalgamation but in the event of it proceeding there are questions which must be posed. I also acknowledge that the latest Working Paper is a Preliminary View and in theory, open to change. However I also know from experience that once the ink has reached the paper very little tends to change, in reality.)

Issues for City:

Who will wake up every morning thinking about how to drive Waterford city forward? Not one senior staff will remain dedicated solely to our city. Currently there are 4 Directors and one City Manager doing this day in day out. Post amalgamation, the City Manager, Directors Of Service and Senior Staff will have to worry about everything from Ferrybank to Youghal Bridge. In my opinion the City Manager himself will have so many distractions already he will not be able to dedicate the time required (as he does currently) to driving the city as the regional economic Gateway. What has this focus delivered in recent years? Well, the House of Waterford; two World Class Museums; Winterval and the tourism they have generated – to name but a few! These have been serious game-changers for Waterford City.

The Document talks about the amalgamated authority being split between Dungarvan and the City with the Manager and (some) Directors having offices in both. There are financial implications but more importantly, time implications. Time spent on potholes in Knockanore is time not spent on our city. Time spent driving is time not spent on our city. But we aren’t dealing only with potholes. Waterford County Council has massive projects in planning which will require huge time and energy to deliver. From my memory some of these include, the seven villages sewerage scheme, and the no small matter of a €6.9 MILLION Euro deficit. From the Citys’ point of view this will take away from the time and energy that needs to be spent on the City agenda.

In my opinion one of the greatest strengths of Waterford City Council has been its CAN DO attitude and its ability to think outside the traditional Local Authority box. I fear this innovation will be lost due to the sheer workload which will come with the merger.

The end result of any product directly relates back to the amount of time, effort and detail put into it in the first place. Six Directors simply cannot do the same amount of work as nine and they can’t be expected to especially with hugely increased workloads. Waterford City has built its reputation as a Local Authority (best in Ireland according to Chambers Ireland in 2010) on quality and delivery. The House of Waterford Crystal, Viking Triangle, Medieval Museum and Nature Park are five star attractions for Waterford City. There is simply no way all of these would have been achieved in the same timeframe, in a merged authority.

The Amalgamation committee promised a stronger Unified Authority. What they’re now proposing is a far cry from that. What is actually happening is Waterford will be left with a split, depleted authority operating from two ‘Headquarters’ 45 Kilometres apart. No other City Council (including Limerick) will suffer this disadvantage. And in my opinion this would not be viewed as best practice by any private business.

If, as proposed, the Council meet alternately in the City & Dungarvan there are cost implications. Also in terms of meetings, City members will move from a current 15 person Council to a 32 person Council while for County Councillors it will move from 23 to 32! The meetings, in my opinion, will be ungovernable, with consensus being very difficult to achieve and likely to break down on city/county lines.

The main reason being given for merger is ‘efficiencies’ and ‘cost savings’. The City Manager has already said he doesn’t agree that the extent of savings according to the Amalgamation Report are achievable and that there will be significant costs involved before any savings will be made. In any organisation before you would undertake the level of change we are being asked to make you would simply HAVE TO HAVE the costs fully documented. Why has no cost/benefit analysis been produced? We are operating in a complete vacuum when it comes to the costs and indeed, the savings.

The Amalgamation Document mentions Shared Services. There is a Shared Services exercise being undertaken across all Local Authorities at National Level at present. Some savings being attributed to the merger will happen anyway under this initiative, in my opinion.

National Issues:

Putting People First is the policy document on Local Government launched by Minister Hogan late last year. There has been no decision at national level on many of the proposals contained in that document. There are issues about the Transfer of reserved functions, budgets and the ability of districts to raise additional funding which they would have local discretion to spend . None of this has been decided yet at National level - we are designing our system prematurely – effectively blindfolded!

Incidentally, if functions are not transferred (and I suspect they will not be) then the districts are, in effect, nothing more than glorified area committees, regardless of whether you call yourself a city or a Metropolitan District, or whether you have a Mayor or Chain or any other meaningless words and paraphernalia.

I see too, in Putting People First, that King Phil intends to issue his own Charters for Metropolitan Areas...what’s the bet that Kilkennys current Borough Council (the area they refer to as their City with a current population of 8,700) will be expanded to the required Metropolitan Area size of 20,000? Long live the King!

Economic Development:

While some in favour of the merger will hold up the position of Director of Economic Development as one of the major advantages of the amalgamation, this as far as I am concerned is very disingenuous as all gateway cities will have this Directorate according to Putting People First.

The ‘if it’s good for Limerick surely its good for Waterford’ argument:

The wording of the Implementation Committees terms of reference for Limerick & Waterford are almost identical except for two glaring differences. Section 14 of the Limerick terms of reference state that the new Limerick authority will “establish appropriate joint arrangements with Clare County Council under local Government law to ensure the most effective discharge of functions in the areas which the Local Government Committee recommended for transfer to the new Limerick Authority”. Interestingly there is no mention at all of this in the Waterford document in relation to South Kilkenny. This can hardly have been an oversight as otherwise the document is almost word for word, identical. Also interestingly the Limerick amalgamation committee actually looked at this issue whereas the Waterford amalgamation committee decided (or were directed!) very early on that they could not look at the Kilkenny issue....

You might ask, if this is good for Limerick, why is it not good for Waterford. The issues for Limerick & Waterford are NOT the same:

• In Limerick the two HQ’s are in the City so geography is not an issue.

• There is NO county town in Limerick.

• There will be hardly any change in service delivery or structures. Main base of COUNTY is in Limerick CITY with area offices. There will be no change.

Overall Local Government Reform:

Originally the plan was to reduce from 34 to 24 City & County Councils. Phil Hogan in Putting People First has now decided that there will be no more mergers after Waterford (a reduction of just 3!). If Minister Hogan believes that the savings will actually be so great with mergers, why not implement the original numbers?

WHY OH WHY if this is such a good idea, isn’t Galway being merged????

Back to Waterford:

The only other difference between the Limerick & Waterford Implementation Committee Terms of Reference is that Limerick are also to put in place new arrangements to merge other bodies such as the City & County Development Boards, Joint Policing Committees, Enterprise Boards, and Local Development Companies (Section 11). There is no mention of this in the Waterford terms of reference. Why? Will we need yet another Committee after this one to do that?

For what it’s worth: I accept no-ones’ bona-fides in this. I accept NO re-assurances that what is right is being considered, for I see with my own two eyes that it has not been considered to date and therefore will most likely not be considered now.

Over 95% (from what I hear) of all submissions to the Amalgamation Committee were against it. (I have been unable to access copies of the submissions despite requesting them both from the Secretary to the Committee and from Phil Hogans’ Department.) Yet, those submissions, from what we can see in the resulting recommendation were ignored and the Committee proceeded in doing its masters bidding.

Now that even they can surely see that they have created a monster; still they persist. This does not augur well for any consultations or for my (or your) input at this stage to be properly considered now. Indeed I question at all why I am even bothering to consider engaging. But persist we must, if only – if this monster is allowed to gain life – to try and ensure that it does as little damage as possible!

Bottom line:

Waterford City Council is currently one of the best & most dynamic Local Authorities in the Country – by any Independent measure. It is now to be broken up in a manner which will seriously disadvantage the city for decades to come. We are being delivered a ‘Frankenstein Council’ (FRANKEN-COUNCIL) made up by cutting and splicing two councils together in a most inefficient manner.

Our energy & focus will be dissipated while other cities forge ahead with their agenda and development. And finally we will be reduced to County Town level, with our shiny Mayoral chain, playing at being a city while other cities secretly laugh at us, while they surge further ahead.

Reform of Local Government? Not for us, I’m afraid. Not in Waterford.

The Minister and most particularly the Implementation Committee have, and are continuing to create, a MONSTER. It matters to me and to every citizen in Waterford who can figure out that in this instance, the Emperor has no clothes.

Sadly our ancient city will continue to be eviscerated with the Minister’s, the Government’s and sadly, our local Government TD’s blessing.

I can hardly bring myself to watch...