WHAT was being hailed last night as one of the biggest shake-ups in local government could transform Limerick city and its hinterland.
Environment Minister John Gormley has given the green light for a powerful five-person group to draw up plans to bring the greater Limerick city area — which encompasses parts of Co Limerick and Co Clare — under the control of one authority to fight its urban decay and invigorate a €3 billion regeneration plan.
At present, in what has been described as “shambolic” local government, Limerick city and its suburbs are administered by Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council and Clare County Council.
Mr Gormley now wants the city and its wider suburban hinterland to fall into one administrative area.
He has appointed former Kerry Group chief Denis Brosnan and four other heavy-hitters to the Limerick Local Government Committee.
Mr Brosnan, who was appointed to head the Mid-West Task Force in the wake of the Dell jobs disaster, has been highly critical of Government inaction on their interim report, which included key proposals on the overall governance of the greater Limerick area.
The task force hit out at the confused multi-council governance of Limerick city and called for one greater council to manage the city.
Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council and Clare County Council have been bickering for decades on their slice of the rates riches they take in from the greater Limerick city area.
One source said: “No minister has been prepared to grasp the nettle to set up a single authority and this has led to mayhem in having three councils in charge of Limerick.
“This led to a crazy situation in the flooding crisis when Civil Defence personnel based in Ennis were sent to Corbally Banks, a mile from the base of Limerick City’s Civil Defence headquarters due to the Clare and Limerick city boundary line which is in the suburbs.
“The city centre as a business centre is dying a death as retail companies move out to places like Dooradoyle Shopping Centre in the Limerick county-administered suburbs where they pay a fraction of the rates paid in the city centre. It’s a dysfunctional regional hub.”
Mr Brosnan’s committee is seen as the first major response to the report submitted by his task force.
Shannon Development this week said that a vibrant Limerick city was essential for the revival of the commercial and tourism fortunes of the entire mid-west.
It is believed that Mr Brosnan and his four colleagues have been asked to submit a master plan within the next three months with an assurance it will be acted on by Mr Gormley.
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