Personally I find it extraordinary that, at this stage of the game, we are still waiting for any costs for the proposed merger of Waterford City & County Councils. The (City) Manager has admitted that no costings have been prepared and yet we have Minister Hogan constantly referencing the savings that this amalgamation will deliver. How can this be? Why is no-one challenging him on this? The Minister does not have the facts - as the costs have not been detailed!
SAVINGS GOING DOWN & DOWN!
In Putting People First, the Minister claimed that there would be up to €9m in savings from the merger. The amalgamation committee estimated savings of between €5m and €8.95m but targeted the lower number of €5m. (The two Managers in their exercise submitted that there would be about €3.8m in savings - with just €1.8m of that attributable to amalgamation over shared services.)
Now in the latest (2nd edition) workforce planning document from the Implementation Committee I see the savings are down to €3.95m! Remarkably close to what the Managers originally put it at. Of that €3.95m, about €3m - according to the City Manager - is due to loss of staff with another €1m due to 'other' unmentioned savings. Although what they are we haven't been told either. Assuming the Managers figures are right - bear in mind they only attribute €1.8m as being DIRECTLY attributable to Amalgamation! €1.8m - and this, with NO COSTS factored in at all!
AND WHAT OF COSTS?
And so what about the costs? Seeing as how nobody seems to be willing to make a stab at this: I will. I say at the beginning however that I am no accountant and this is my best guess having observed the process so far and with my knowledge of what might need to be factored in. But sure, in the absence of anything else we can at least have a go! So! Here goes:
I reckon costs break into two parts: Front-loaded start up costs AND on-going long term costs.
I have tried to keep it as simple as possible but some figures need a bit more explaining than others.
I have tended to be conservative in my estimates however realistically this can only be a guide. There may be costs that I have not foreseen. However, if my 'guess' is way off the wall, no doubt that will be pointed out post haste :)
Costs before a single Euro is saved could safely be estimated at a minimum of €2.5million
On then to ongoing costs.....
Bear in the mind that costs are being accrued already while it could take 10 years (or longer) to achieve the savings required!
There will, eventually be personnel savings - but these would have mostly been delivered anyway because of the new National Workforce Guidelines...so they can't be claimed as amalgamation savings in my opinion.
Remember - the Managers accredited an additional €1.8m in savings for amalgamation over shared services.
My (conservative) calculations show that there will be on-going additional costs of at least €1.1m per year.
And this does NOT take into account the upfront costs which are already being accrued.
Now. Show me your costs please Minister. Or show me where mine are wrong.
I believe the savings will not be made in Waterford.
I believe the savings will not be made in Tipperary.
I believe the savings will not be made in Limerick.
I believe the Minister is breaking the system of Local Government in Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary for some mythical savings, not balanced against the relevant costs. This is, at best an uninformed strategy and and worst, reckless and irresponsible.
(Also bear in mind the hilarious but glaring elephant in the room that none of this addresses the issue of the spill-over of the city environs into South Kilkenny. It would be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous.)
When are we going to say stop - you cannot destroy our city?
Waterford is the oldest and noblest City in Ireland.
Why are we not up in arms to defend her?
Or, failing that, at least when are we going to start asking questions?