Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne put forward a motion at the monthly meeting of Mayo County Council calling on the authority not to issue full payment to contractors until they have paid all subcontractors. This is to be included as a clause on contracts issued to main contractors. The motion received huge support from Cllr Kilcoyne’s fellow councillors this week.
“There are numerous cases of sub contractors being left high and dry by main contractors when it comes to payments all over the country and I think that we should have a clause included in all our contracts to ensure that we can do something to stop this happening,” Cllr Kilcoyne told the meeting. “Most of those subcontractors are the small self-employed people who can't afford to have things like this happen, they end up having to fold themselves and then more people are put out of work.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell said he was very happy to support the motion, saying it is something that should be done nationally.
Fine Gael councillor Seamus Weir added that he was aware of a case of a subcontractor who was left “high and dry by a contractor who got a job from this council to the tune of €23,000”. Cllr Weir said it was “a disgrace and we can't be leaving our own people, who most of these subcontractors are, to be caught out in situations like this”.
Independent councillor Richard Finn told a similar story: “I know of another case where a contractor got a contract off Mayo County Council and defaulted on the payments to the subcontractors and they still got another contract from the council after that again. When a contractor does that, they should not be allowed to get another contract again from this council.”
Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Burke told the meeting that it wasn't just the subcontractor who gets caught out in this. “It's also the hardware shop, the plumbing supplier who are all left out of pocket when something like this goes on,” he said. “It's a crazy situation where you end up with subcontractors not being able to get their materials off sites when a developer goes out of business, because the receiver won't let them.”
County manager Peter Hynes told the meeting that, while he and the council supported the thrust of the motion, the council's hands were tied in a number of areas on the contracts where they had to follow the existing legislation which was laid down for the issuing of contracts. He also told the meeting that, in relation to subcontractors not being able to get their tool or materials out of sites if a contractor goes out of business, the reason was that when a contractor takes on a job the ownership of the site transfers to the contractor until the project is finished, and when a receiver comes everything on it is deemed the property of the contractor. He also told the meeting that under the legislation for the contracts they issue, the only contract that the council has is with the main contractor, but they don't have one with the subcontractors because that is a domestic arrangement between the main contractor and the subcontractor.