No draft annual report yet for Westmeath County Council

A lack of staff means that Westmeath County Council’s draft annual report won’t be complete until after the Local Election.

It means that some of the councillors currently sitting may no longer be in the chamber when the report comes up for discussion.

The council is understaffed and may have to outsource the design and printing of the document, even though it will be in e-format rather than printed.

Speaking at this week’s county council meeting administrator Billy Coughlan said even electronic printing has to be formatted.

He said that because of the elections coming up, the council’s corporate services staff, who are involved in managing various aspects of the electoral process, do not have time to complete the report which was due to be before councillors in April.

He hopes to have it ready by June, he said, but that could be too late for some of the councillors.

Cllr Mark Cooney questioned whether anyone even reads the document, and expressed concern that it will cost €2,500 to have the report translated into Irish.

The council is obliged under Official Languages legislation to translate all official documents into Irish.

Cllr Cooney, speaking after the meeting, said he’s not simply concerned about the local cost, rather “the fact that it’s replicated throughout the county councils, and is probably greater” in some councils.

He again expressed his doubt about the value of the report.

“It’s a summary of what the council did, nice photographs of things that happened during the year and somebody just looking through might have a look at it but that’s as far as it goes.

“And certainly anybody who is interested in reading it would be well able to read it in English and won’t need to go to the Irish version,” he said.

But the council, he said, will have to afford the translation and it’s included in the budget every year and it is a question he has asked every year.

“It’s a huge cost that’s out there. And while certainly we want to support our Irish language to what extent? And I think people should realize this costs money and in the current economic climate, it’s something that should be considered,” he said.

Asked if it was possible to check on the council’s IT system how many times last year’s had been downloaded, he said he had never checked and would be happy to put a bet on that the numbers are very small.

He was also concerned that the council is understaffed and won’t have the report complete on time.

“If they can’t do it in house, it’s a statutory obligation that it be done and therefore they have to go outside to do it. I didn’t ask what the cost of that will be, but presumably something similar as well.”


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