Staff of the Athlone Municipal District are being forced to work long hours and fulfil a variety of roles due to shortages of service personnel, according to Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hogan.
This was the second occasion the issue has been raised at Municipal District level. Cllr Hogan spoke of a reduction of 25 per cent in the number of staff employed by the local authority since the recession hit in 2008.
He said staff of the council are currently having to switch between operating the front desk at the Civic Centre to dealing with issues in the finance department, and sympathised with the demands which are currently being put on them. He added that while staffing was not an issue councillors are responsible for, service provision is, and that at this moment in time the latter is suffering.
He thanked the council staff, whom he said are currently going “over and beyond the call of duty” to ensure services are maintained. Cllr Hogan called for a full review of the council’s staffing requirements in order to rectify the situation and ease the burden on the current workforce.
Fine Gael councillor John Dolan echoed Cllr Hogan’s concerns. He noted that with the country emerging from recession towns like Athlone are becoming busier, meaning an even greater demand for services provided by the council. He said many staff members are putting in longer hours than they are being paid for, and backed Cllr Hogan’s call for a review of the situation.
Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke said it is clear to everyone in the chamber and associated with the council that there has been a serious dwindling in staff numbers since 2014. He warned that a reduction in staff morale could eventually tell in the quality of service provided, and called for immediate action on the issue.
Director of services Barry Kehoe said he recognised the council executive is accountable to members for service delivery. He agreed that activity had increased but that personnel numbers had not. Mr Kehoe committed to undertaking a report into the staffing requirements of the council and presenting it to councillors at October’s meeting of the Municipal District.