Laois Offaly VEC merger advanced

WORK could get underway sooner than expected on the merger of Laois and Offaly VECs into a new body based in Portlaoise, it emerged this week.

WORK could get underway sooner than expected on the merger of Laois and Offaly VECs into a new body based in Portlaoise, it emerged this week.

While the new body will not come into official existence until 2014, Laois VEC members learned last week the Government could pass the law needed before the summer break. This would clear the way for the merger which will mean locating the HQ in Portlaoise. Ms Anne O’Keeffe, Laois VEC CEO, briefed Laois VEC members this week.

“The legislative programme for the summer parliamentary session was approved at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, April 18. The Education and Training Boards Bill to reduce the number of VECs from 33 to 16 is on the list,” she said.

Ms O’Keeffe said the law may not go through before the summer and in any case the merger would not happen “overnight” although she expected that once the law is passed work would begin on the merger. She confirmed that the change to a single board would not officially happen until after the local elections in 2014.

While it would take time she said that the recruitment ban was an issue and there were staff shortages that would have to be resolved.

Cllr Mary Sweeney said the VECs had met with Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Minister of State Ciaran Cannon who had clarified several issues including the role of the VECs as the lead providers of training and education.

She said the Minister reassured VECs that they would have the main role in organising courses and FAS projects would be “brought in” under the new merged boards.

Mr Gerry Quinn was concerned about the representation of parents. He feared that it would be national bodies selecting parent reps which he said could cause a “democratic defecit”.

Ms O’Keefe said the new boards would not have the same democratic representation and selection would change.