Westmeath’s county manager says the county council makes a significant contribution to creating and sustaining jobs.
Speaking at this week’s meeting of Westmeath County Council, Danny McLoughlin told members that it’s a role that’s “often overlooked,” , as he briefed them on an 11-page document ‘A Plan for Jobs’.
As an employer, a contractor, and through direct subvention, he said the council makes a noteworthy contribution and is one of the largest employers in Westmeath.
The plan is descriptive and points out the council’s aims and objectives in a general way, but there are no specific plans for creating any specific number of jobs.
However, it outlines a large number of areas which the council has responsibility for, which have a positive impact on job creation.
These include developing infrastructure and supporting local enterprise with micro spaces and sites.
The new Local Enterprise Office (an amalgamation of council and County Enterprise Board expertise scheduled for 2013 ) will have “a prominent front of house location” in County Buildings, he said.
Everything the council does must be considered in terms of how it helps the county attract and sustain jobs, he said, pointing out that council schemes to develop the aesthetic appeal of towns add to the quality of life indicators that employers and employees want.
He said every efficiency the council makes is passed on to the community or business, so “the money we save we can do more with”.
He also listed the provision of grants - including a new €100,000 fund to be taken from 2013’s rate payments and ring-fenced for business development.
He said allowing businesses to pay rates monthly by direct debit instead of twice-yearly helps them.
The council engages with Chambers of Commerce, has hired people under various employment schemes and the planned €25m capital spend scheduled for 2013 will produce direct and indirect jobs.
“We’re not all about sweeping streets and taking planning applications,” agreed Cllr Mark Cooney, who said the public often forgets the jobs created by the council through various projects and the effect of those jobs on communities.
Colm Arthur, who is chairman of the Economic SPC, commended the manager and his staff for what he called consistent, immense support.
He said it’s easy to look at the negatives, but “as far as I can see there is more optimism out there. People are starting to do business and it seems things are on the up.
“The council will continue to do as in the past: support the environment for job creation in the county,” he said.
He referred to the construction work at Athlone Castle and the Luan Gallery, and said the workers employed there spent their money in the town.