A memorandum from the Department of Transport on what local authorities can spend the grants they get from the Department on could lead to Mayo County Council having to lay off staff, a meeting of the roads and transportation strategic policy committee was told this week.
Director of services for Mayo County Council, Joe Beirne told the meeting: “This new memorandum comes down from the Department of Transport, setting out what we can and what we can’t do with the money we get from them. It has significantly moved the goalposts and has big implications for direct labour provisions and to the machinery yard. We don’t just do roads from the budget, we also maintain a machinery yard that is ready for operation 24-7, 365 days a year, and everything that goes with that.”
Some of the changes to how local authorities use the funding from the Department include no costs for road design or supervision, changing of the amount of overheads that can be charged against the grant for things such as labour costs and allowances due to staff, and changes to the way plant hire leasing is done by the council. “If this does come into effect it does put the staff and the machinery yard at risk, we would have to close up shop,” Mr Beirne said. “There is a perspective that you could take that you could go from direct labour to contract work, but that’s not that easy. We couldn’t take the 70 people involved in the machinery yard and deploy them elsewhere in the areas. You also have to look at how could we cope with major emergencies like last winter’s cold weather, we couldn’t have dealt with that, without the machinery yard and the staff there.”
The memorandum which came down to the local authorities has been parked until the end of the year before it may come into effect. “I’d be hopeful that they row back things in it a bit, because if they’re not, we’ll have to go to the general fund to make up the shortfall and the money just isn’t there to meet the demands,” Mr Beirne declared.