Funding ‘sweetener’ needed if Galway councils are to merge

City Hall on College Road (left) and County Hall on Prospect Hill.

The proposed merger of Galway City and County Council is in tatters – unless the Government come up with a multi-million euro ‘sweetener’ between now and the end of March.

The authors of a report recommending the amalgamation of the two Councils into a single Greater Galway Authority have been told that it can only happen if there is a commitment to substantial additional funding.

Earlier this week the advisory group established to look into the amalgamation of both authorities met with TDs and councillors and received much the same response from all in attendance.

The Expert Advisory Group, who were appointed to consider the merger of both authorities, have concluded that the establishment of a Greater Galway Authority is “technically and administratively feasible”.

However, they concede that there will be no cost saving as both authorities are already under-resourced.

There are also no details on budget or on how many councillors would be elected to this new authority; there are currently a total of 57 councillors between the City and County Councils.

Galway West TD Noel Grealish attended this week’s meeting and said that there was little point in talking about amalgamations when there was no mention of how it would be funded.

“Galway County Council is already strapped for cash and Galway City Council are also under-resourced and if there is no commitment to additional funding, then this is dead in the water.

“This is no criticism of the authors of the report as they are doing their job but if the Government want amalgamation then they are going to have to ensure that a new authority will be adequately resourced,” Deputy Grealish added.

Galway and Cork are the only two counties in which there are two local authorities in existence – every other county has just one – but there are efforts to implement amalgamations in both are being strenuously resisted.

The great fear in Galway is that the county will lose out to the city in terms of funding and the provision of essential ‘day to day’ services. Only a handful of the 39 members of Galway County Council see merit in such a move.

Galway East TD Sean Canney, who was also present at this week’s meeting, said that if there was a firm commitment towards the provision of additional funding, then the prospect of an amalgamation might have some hope.

“We have two major issues that have to be dealt with. First of all the Galway County Council budget has been continually eroded and there is nothing to suggest that the authority will get, say, an additional €10 million to carry out its day to day provision of services.

“Secondly, the five Municipal District Councils which were established within the Council area are not being funded and simply do not have any power or influence. This also has to be addressed,” Deputy Canney added.

The views expressed by the Oireachtas members and councillors will be articulated in the report which will be presented to Government at the end of March when the amalgamation proposal will be the subject of a vote in the Dail.