The biggest decision ever to affect the whole of Galway is due within a few weeks when a review group will rule if the city and county local authorities are to be amalgamated – it will have huge consequences for every householder.
And a Government Minister has come out in support of an amalgamation of Galway County Council and Galway City Council into a single authority as he believes that every area will benefit as a result.
Last year a review group recommended that both authorities be amalgamated as the city was expanding more into the county and there are currently a number of shared functions like the library and fire services.
Even an issue like the traffic chaos in Parkmore, which is in the Galway County Council area, has to be addressed by both authorities in an effort to come up with a resolution.
And when it comes to the future construction of the Galway City Outer Ring Road, it will involve both authorities.
Minister Sean Canney from Belclare is now pushing for an amalgamation of the City and County Councils – however, the vast majority of elected councillors on both authorities are vehemently opposed to such a move.
It has been stated that elected members in Rahoon, for example, should have no say what goes on in the likes of Ballinasloe or Clifden and the same should apply in reverse.
But Minister Canney said that all of the functions of the city and county should be devolved into Municipal Councils. There are currently five in the county – Tuam, Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Athenry-Oranmore and Connemara – but they have little or no power and no budget.
The OPW Minister said these areas could be given the power to make decisions for themselves and he advocated that the three City Council electoral areas be given similar functions and powers.
“The new authority involving the city and county would only have to meet on a quarterly basis at most as all of the work would be carried out by the Municipal Districts, which was my understanding before they ever came into being.
“For example, at last week’s meeting of Galway County Council there were issues relating to the island ferry controversy in Connemara, social housing in Ballinasloe and traffic calming in Clarinbridge.
“These are matters that should be resolved at local level and not in front of a meeting of 39 councillors – most of whom are not really interested in what goes on in other parts of the county apart from their own,” Minister Canney added.
The potential merger is also viewed as a cost-saving exercise in that it would reduce the number of high-paid officials and there would only be one chief executive where there are currently two between the city and county.
However, favouring the amalgamation are critical of the fact that the new review group is made up of the Chief Executives from both the County Council and City Councils, Kevin Kelly and Brendan McGrath, with claims that they will be anxious to protect their own positions.