The Government has published the Report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group. The independent Local Government Efficiency Review Group was established by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, TD, in late 2009 to review the cost base, expenditure of and numbers employed in local authorities.
The report makes 106 recommendations and has identified efficiency and other savings of Eur511 million for the local government sector to be pursued in the short, medium and longer terms. These savings are comprised of Eur346 million in efficiencies and Eur165 million in improved cost recovery and revenue raising.
The group’s recommendations cover proposals such as: joint administrative areas for some sets of counties; reductions in senior management and other staffing levels; greater efficiency in procurement; more use of shared services, such as joint inspectorates and regional design offices; better financial management including annual reporting to the Oireachtas; and wider use of service indicators to help improve performance.
The report makes a number of recommendations with regard to water and waste, which are detailed below.
* A concerted effort should be made to reduce unaccounted for water including water leakage levels (short to medium-term);
* The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and local authorities should further investigate ways to reduce input costs in areas such as energy efficiency through carrying out energy audits and improving operational and maintenance practices (short-term);
* An enhanced regional office approach should be developed at river basin level for:
- Infrastructure delivery and implementation of the River Basin Management Plans;
- Managing bulk purchasing (such as energy, chemicals), and externally procured sampling and monitoring and to seek economies of scale in contracts for equipment maintenance;
- Working with the Water Services Training Group (already regionally based) to optimise training;
- Following further analysis, (a) delivering monitoring, authorisation and licensing functions currently carried out by local authorities under a range of legislation and (b) providing operational audits to identify potential for savings (short to medium-term);
* The ‘agency’ working arrangements between Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and local authorities on inspections under the nitrates regulations should be extended with a view to a more efficient use of the overall inspection resource (short to medium-term);
* Where appropriate, the necessary equipment should be installed to allow remote operation and monitoring of water/waste water facilities (short to medium-term);
* There should be a continued emphasis on water conservation, instead of schemes to increase capacity, leading to savings in operational costs and deferred capital investment (short-term);
* There should be continued use of Design Build and Operate (DBO) and bundling of operation and maintenance contracts (short-term);
* The IT-based Performance Management System should be implemented for all water plants so that comparative data is available to establish benchmarking for service delivery and inform savings measures (short-term);
* The review of laboratory services currently underway should be expanded to include an examination, with a view to identifying efficiencies, of water monitoring by other public agencies. This review should be completed within 6 months (short-term).
* The system of control for internal movement of hazardous waste within Ireland should be consolidated into the national office within Dublin City Council (short to medium-term);
* The waste collection permitting role should be centralised, and if necessary implemented through the network of Regional Waste Management Offices (short to medium-term);
* Local authorities should avail of opportunities to secure continued rationalisation of activity in waste management services (medium term).
Short-term timeframes are set for recommendations to be progressed in 2011. Medium-term timeframes indicate recommendations to be progressed in 2012-2013. Long-term timeframes signify recommendations that can be expected to achieve efficiency outcomes in the post-2013 period.