Waterford report: Cut in number of councillors aims to help save €4m a year

There will be 67 job losses as a result of the process

Intensification of the “friendly rivalry” enjoyed by  two current Fine Gael TDs, John Deasy and Paudie Coffey (above) is likely.  Photograph: David Sleator

Intensification of the “friendly rivalry” enjoyed by two current Fine Gael TDs, John Deasy and Paudie Coffey (above) is likely. Photograph: David Sleator

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 01:00

One of the consequences of the imminent amalgamation of Waterford’s city and county councils is that a clutch of sitting councillors will be out of office by late May and, for observers who enjoy political blood sports, the next few months promise to be interesting.

The amalgamation process cuts the number of county and city councillors from 38 across the two existing bodies to 32, meaning a minimum of six currently holding council seats will be politically jobless before long.

That’s not taking into account those who sit on town councils in Dungarvan, Lismore and Tramore who will also lose out thanks to the abolition of those bodies. Some will contest the city and county seats while others will fade into retirement.

Fine Gael is by far the largest party in the city and county, holding 15 of the 38 seats across the two councils, with Labour on seven, Fianna Fáil on six (just one in the city), Sinn Féin three, the Workers Party one and six Independents.

Fianna Fáil will hope it can at least become the second-biggest party across the city and county. In particular, it will be targeting an improvement in the city where just one candidate, Gary Wyse, scraped home last time around.

Cllr Wyse died suddenly at the age of 50 last October and has been replaced by his 19-year-old son Adam Wyse, who will run for election in May.

Nationwide, Labour is bracing itself for a kicking from voters who seem to blame it for health, education and social protection cutbacks while hailing Fine Gael for getting the economy into some shape.

Its chances of retaining just under 20 per cent of seats in the county cannot be good, although Fine Gael must also be vulnerable to losing some of its seats in an area where the Live Register remains much higher than the national average.

The most likely outcome is that Fine Gael will come out of May as again the largest party in Waterford, if not as dominant as now, and reliant on either Labour or Fianna Fáil for a voting pact in the council chamber.

Whether Fine Gael’s performance is sufficient for a platform to hold on to its two Dáil seats at the next general election is a different matter. What’s more likely is an intensification of the “friendly rivalry” enjoyed by its two current TDs, John Deasy and Paudie Coffey.

Sinn Féin must fancy its chances of holding on to three seats, despite the reduction in seats overall, and will be helped by the profile enjoyed by its Senator, David Cullinane, in the Oireachtas.

Despite its probable setback in May, Labour will still hope to have enough in the tank to retain its Dáil seat at the next general election.

There has traditionally been a Labour seat in Waterford and the party’s two candidates, Ciara Conway (Dungarvan) and Séamus Ryan (Waterford city), did well last time with Conway eventually winning out.

It remains to be seen if it will again opt for a two-candidate strategy.

Under the new regime, the Dungarvan-Lismore area will have eight seats, the central swathe of the county (Comeragh) will have six, and each of three city/hinterland electoral areas will have six seats.

The latter adjustment will see the east of the city tying in with the likes of Dunmore East and Passage East and the west being linked with Tramore. While the city and county manager and mayor will be based in Waterford, council meetings will rotate between the city and Dungarvan.

There will be 67 job losses as a result of the process: all are from the existing management structures and will reduce office staff from 424 to 357. Outdoor staff numbering 390 are not affected.

The net economic effect of amalgamation and abolition, the Government hopes, will be an annual saving of €4.35 million due to staff cuts and reduction in elected representatives.

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