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