DCSIMG

Jobs, funding under threat as Bord Snip gets set to slash

THERE is no mention of any specific spending cuts for Kilkenny city or county in the McCarthy Report published last Thursday.

Rumours that the Dublin based economist, originally from Wexford had specifically mentioned merging Kilkenny County Council with Carlow County Council proved inaccurate and neither was there any mention of specific schools to be closed in the city or county.

However, it is clear that a huge number of organisations providing a service to the most vulnerable in society are under threat as all government departments look at where they can slash quickest.

One thing is certain, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will not be coming to Thomastown proving that chairman of Kilkenny County Council, Michael O'Brien was right about the aborted plan to bring over 100 well paid jobs to the town under the government's failed decentralisation programme.

He was a lone voice when he raised serious concerns about the relocation announced six years ago and he will take no comfort from being right having asked several times for the project to be fast-tracked and given priority by successive governments.

A number of rural garda stations are in danger and although it doesn't say it, there are also fears over the Accident and Emergency (A&E) service at St Luke's Hospital with little hope of any funding for a new A&E building while the perennial chestnut, the city's army barracks is again the centre of speculation that it may close with over 300 more job losses.

Deputy Phil Hogan has described the Report of An Bord Snip Nua as a most accurate catalogue of the waste by Government Ministers over the past ten years.

The Fine Gael environment spokesman said that page after page of the report showed clearly the inept performance of government ministers over the last ten years.

He said that he would not be supporting any cuts in funding for Kilkenny based initiatives until savings were made at a national level first and that the people of Kilkenny could see the government was serious about cutting the waste it had created with a plethora of bodies and quangos over the last decade.

Deputy Hogan said such waste has put the country in a situation where we now have to find up to €15 billion over the next couple of years to remove our structural deficit. He added that 95% of this crisis was caused by Government policy and poor regulation of the banking sector.

"The report shows the amount of bureaucracy that has been built up over the last 10 years by Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen", he said.

"Everything has been centralised with about 550 new agencies being set up within Government Departments to do jobs the Ministers should have been doing.

"This was part of the philosophy of Bertie Ahern – to create a communist centralised system of government where he and his ministers would dictate and control everything including CIE, Fas and the HSE," he said.

Acknowledging that severe measures will have to be taken to deal with the crisis, Deputy Hogan opposed the current Government policy of attacking front line services such as schools hospitals, Garda stations, local Department of Agricultural offices and schemes such as Reps.

"It is short term book-keeping economics to curtail schemes in the productive sector that can attract funding from the European Union", he said.

Loss of 50 Kilkenny jobs

"Last Friday's announcement to close the Department of Agriculture offices in Kilkenny with the loss of 50 jobs along with the proposed further €30 million cuts in Teagasc is another blow to the crisis in farming.

"We should support manufacturing and agricultural employment and keep people working in export oriented businesses. We need to cut bureaucracy and administration where there is too much duplication rather than front line services which are over-stretched at the moment. We must remember that a child only gets one chance of education and a seriously ill patient might only get one chance of being cured," he pointed out.

Deputy Hogan warned the Government that it was hands off regarding the merging of Kilkenny and Carlow county councils. "Such a proposal is an insult to local communities as both counties have built up strong identities over the years", he said. "Kilkenny has lost its City status courtesy of Fianna Fail and now they want to take away our county status"

Deploring the Government's failure to adopt positive ways of tackling the crisis, Deputy Hogan pointed to Fine Gael's plans of E11 billion in new investments to transform Ireland into a low carbon economy while creating 100,000 jobs in the process.

"Our visionary E11 billion investment programme will see significant State intervention to rapidly promote more sustainable energy and transport sectors while bringing telecommunications into the 21st Century", he said.

John McGuinness reaction

Many of the recommendations contained in the McCarthy Report (An Bord Snip) are good and should be done without haste. That's the opinion of Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness who wants any cuts done from the top down. "We have to see the changes and efficiencies at the top level and this is most evident where the Health Service Executive (HSE) has already admitted that it has been 2,000 and 5,0000 senior managers too much," Deputy McGuinness said. He asked how long more could people tolerate the fact that 870 agencies and quangos were responsible for delivering funding for local services in one sector.

He said many of the recommendations on amalgamations of schools and other services had to be looked at in detail to ascertain the cost benefits and to ensure that the democratic process was not

He also recommended that an Bord Gas and the ESB be told now by the regulator, who controls then, to cut the cost of energy by 25%.

He cannot understand why the board of Fas still has not been stood down. They are serving no useful purpose and a board of that size is simply a waste of money," he added.

He wants to create a new super-body, an amalgamation of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Bord Failte and Bord Bia to sell Ireland abroad.

"That's what any smart business man would do send his best team abroad to explain to trading partners exactly what is going on," Deputy McGuinness said.

Myopic Dublin worldview

Kilkenny City's Mayor, Malcolm Noonan said that while the report has some worthwhile proposals, that largely failed rural Ireland and was written with a myopic Dublin worldview. Mayor Noonan was also critical of the report and its implications for local government funding.

"Certainly there's plenty of food for thought for Government in here', he said.

"However, proposals to downgrade rural Garda stations and to merge small rural schools will further devastate rural communities who are already being hit by collapse in farm incomes, the loss of REPS and the removal of public transport routes.

This is a hard nosed economic report and obviously it's now up to NGO's, and perhaps the ESRI to critique the document in terms poverty proofing and examining the social implications of each set of proposals' he said.

"From the perspective of Local Government, its very worrying indeed. A loss of up to ten percent of our central local government fund coupled with the dramatic drop in the Development Contribution Scheme means that funding for essential services and functions of Local Government is under serious threat' he said.

Mayor Noonan is of the opinion the Development Contribution Scheme was un-sustainable anyway as it tied councils to continuous construction development in order to fund itself and helped fuel the property and banking crisis. He said however that Local Government now urgently needs new ways of generating income autonomous of central government, in line with other European countries.

The Mayor also criticised proposals to remove funding for RAPID coordinators. 'The RAPID programme for disadvantaged areas in Kilkenny like in other urban areas around Ireland has been hugely successful and very often the RAPID coordinator is the sole point of contact for many disadvantaged communities. The RAPID programme is needed now more than ever as poverty manifests itself in more and more areas'.

Finally the Mayor said that the report has put a dent in the ambitions of Kilkenny to expand the Borough Boundary as it is advocating the abolition of town and borough councils. "In order for Kilkenny to progress its ambitions we need clarity on this urgently. This is why I have asked the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley to address a joint session of both councils in October to address this, funding issues for local government and indeed the very future direction of local governance itself.

"I have asked the management to assess what deficits exist in water and waste water infrastructure and I will try to leverage funding to help advance these projects. Our priority in the city should be to try to advance the arts and public realm infrastructure, to prioritise the completion of the outer ring road and not to sink further resources into the Central Access Scheme bridge in the city.

He said that local authorities still carry out and will continue to carry out many essential community functions such as the library service, arts, community development and heritage and environmental awareness.

"We now have to focus on the positive and be proud as a Borough and County Council with what we have achieved to date, but we are looking at a complete root and branch reform of local government. Certainly a reduction in the numbers of elected members is on the cards, but An Bord Snip cannot put an economic value on effective local democracy and subsidiary. Kilkenny Local Authorities are a model of efficiency and we must fight to protect the essential service we provide to the community," he said. “Everything has been centralised with about 550 new agencies being set up within Government Departments to do jobs the Ministers should have been doing.

“This was part of the philosophy of Bertie Ahern – to create a communist centralised system of government where he and his ministers would dictate and control everything including CIE, Fas and the HSE,” he said.

Acknowledging that severe measures will have to be taken to deal with the crisis, Deputy Hogan opposed the current Government policy of attacking front line services such as schools hospitals, Garda stations, local Department of Agricultural offices and schemes such as Reps.

“It is short term book-keeping economics to curtail schemes in the productive sector that can attract funding from the European Union”, he said.

Loss of 50 Kilkenny jobs

“Last Friday’s announcement to close the Department of Agriculture offices in Kilkenny with the loss of 50 jobs along with the proposed further f30 million cuts in Teagasc is another blow to the crisis in farming.

“We should support manufacturing and agricultural employment and keep people working in export oriented businesses. We need to cut bureaucracy and administration where there is too much duplication rather than front line services which are over-stretched at the moment. We must remember that a child only gets one chance of education and a seriously ill patient might only get one chance of being cured,” he pointed out.

Deputy Hogan warned the Government that it was hands off regarding the merging of Kilkenny and Carlow county councils. “Such a proposal is an insult to local communities as both counties have built up strong identities over the years”, he said. “Kilkenny has lost its City status courtesy of Fianna Fail and now they want to take away our county status”

Deploring the Government’s failure to adopt positive ways of tackling the crisis, Deputy Hogan pointed to Fine Gael’s plans of E11 billion in new investments to transform Ireland into a low carbon economy while creating 100,000 jobs in the process.

“Our visionary E11 billion investment programme will see significant State intervention to rapidly promote more sustainable energy and transport sectors while bringing telecommunications into the 21st Century”, he said.

John McGuinness reaction

Many of the recommendations contained in the McCarthy Report (An Bord Snip) are good and should be done without haste. That’s the opinion of Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness who wants any cuts done from the top down. “We have to see the changes and efficiencies at the top level and this is most evident where the Health Service Executive (HSE) has already admitted that it has been 2,000 and 5,0000 senior managers too much,” Deputy McGuinness said. He asked how long more could people tolerate the fact that 870 agencies and quangos were responsible for delivering funding for local services in one sector.

He said many of the recommendations on amalgamations of schools and other services had to be looked at in detail to ascertain the cost benefits and to ensure that the democratic process was not

He also recommended that an Bord Gas and the ESB be told now by the regulator, who controls then, to cut the cost of energy by 25%.

He cannot understand why the board of Fas still has not been stood down. They are serving no useful purpose and a board of that size is simply a waste of money,” he added.

He wants to create a new super-body, an amalgamation of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Bord Failte and Bord Bia to sell Ireland abroad.

“That’s what any smart business man would do send his best team abroad to explain to trading partners exactly what is going on,” Deputy McGuinness said.

Myopic Dublin worldview

Kilkenny City’s Mayor, Malcolm Noonan said that while the report has some worthwhile proposals, that largely failed rural Ireland and was written with a myopic Dublin worldview. Mayor Noonan was also critical of the report and its implications for local government funding.

“Certainly there’s plenty of food for thought for Government in here’, he said.

“However, proposals to downgrade rural Garda stations and to merge small rural schools will further devastate rural communities who are already being hit by collapse in farm incomes, the loss of REPS and the removal of public transport routes.

This is a hard nosed economic report and obviously it’s now up to NGO’s, and perhaps the ESRI to critique the document in terms poverty proofing and examining the social implications of each set of proposals’ he said.

“From the perspective of Local Government, its very worrying indeed. A loss of up to ten percent of our central local government fund coupled with the dramatic drop in the Development Contribution Scheme means that funding for essential services and functions of Local Government is under serious threat’ he said.

Mayor Noonan is of the opinion the Development Contribution Scheme was un-sustainable anyway as it tied councils to continuous construction development in order to fund itself and helped fuel the property and banking crisis. He said however that Local Government now urgently needs new ways of generating income autonomous of central government, in line with other European countries.

The Mayor also criticised proposals to remove funding for RAPID coordinators. ‘The RAPID programme for disadvantaged areas in Kilkenny like in other urban areas around Ireland has been hugely successful and very often the RAPID coordinator is the sole point of contact for many disadvantaged communities. The RAPID programme is needed now more than ever as poverty manifests itself in more and more areas’.

Finally the Mayor said that the report has put a dent in the ambitions of Kilkenny to expand the Borough Boundary as it is advocating the abolition of town and borough councils. “In order for Kilkenny to progress its ambitions we need clarity on this urgently. This is why I have asked the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley to address a joint session of both councils in October to address this, funding issues for local government and indeed the very future direction of local governance itself.

“I have asked the management to assess what deficits exist in water and waste water infrastructure and I will try to leverage funding to help advance these projects. Our priority in the city should be to try to advance the arts and public realm infrastructure, to prioritise the completion of the outer ring road and not to sink further resources into the Central Access Scheme bridge in the city.

He said that local authorities still carry out and will continue to carry out many essential community functions such as the library service, arts, community development and heritage and environmental awareness.

“We now have to focus on the positive and be proud as a Borough and County Council with what we have achieved to date, but we are looking at a complete root and branch reform of local government. Certainly a reduction in the numbers of elected members is on the cards, but An Bord Snip cannot put an economic value on effective local democracy and subsidiary. Kilkenny Local Authorities are a model of efficiency and we must fight to protect the essential service we provide to the community,” he said.

 
 
 

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