The amalgamated council will be a ‘significant’ employer, according to Brendan Hegarty, its chief executive. The existing ‘town halls’ will continue to run, with 356 staff based in Enniskillen and 383 in Omagh, along with some 33-43 planners.
Local planning decisions will be one of the additional functions of the new Fermanagh and Omagh council. Mr Hegarty sat alongside Thomas O’Reilly, the presiding councillor and Margaret McMahon, one of the two ‘change’ managers, at a public consultation meeting in Lisnaskea last week. He told the meeting that 100% of all staff would be kept in post: “In so far as possible, all jobs will be accommodated, although, where senior managers are concerned, there may be some rationalisation.”
The council’s other new responsibilities include urban regeneration and community development, local economic development and local tourism, rural development (in part), and off-street parking. Mr Hegarty explained that from 1st April next year, the new council will be dealing with the duties of the existing councils, from recreation and sport to ownership of St Angelo Airport. He explained waste management, reducing the amount going directly into landfill, would continue to be the new council’s biggest expenditure. “For every tonne of waste that goes into landfill, we are charged £82.50, and if we don’t meet those targets, we face fines in the region of £250 a tonne.”
He then revealed that ratepayers residing in Lisnaskea, Irvinestown and Enniskillen would soon be receiving brown bins for their food and green (eg grass cuttings) waste into. He then focused on the new rates bills.
He explained that the new (district) rate for the new council would not be known till January or February next year. “We are not in position to predict what the rate will be. All we can do is go back to the rates convergence model for Fermanagh/Omagh. It predicted that, at that time, an increase for Fermanagh ratepayers of 7.4 per cent (domestic rate) and 4.5 per cent (non-domestic).“
The government are currently working on quantifying exactly what the difference will be, but Fermanagh is one of four most impacted areas. “Are we likely to see an increase in the domestic rate of seven per cent? Central government are saying ‘No’. They have allocated £30m of rates convergence support which will offset that. We are told this scheme will operate for three to four years.”
The new council will be 40-strong and will represent a population of 113,500 of whom 64 per cent are Catholic and 33 per cent Protestant.