The minority parties in Mayo County Council along with a number of independents have banded together to call a special meeting of the local authority to discuss the implications of the proposed 152 job cuts at the local authority.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Damien Ryan told the Mayo Advertiser yesterday that the group has a letter signed by ten councillors that he will be serving on the Cathaoirleach yesterday (Thursday ).
“He will have a number of days to consider it and call the meeting, but it needs to be done next week because of the seriousness of the issue,” said Cllr Ryan.
The Mayo Advertiser understands that the letter was signed by the majority of the Fianna Fáil councillors along with a number of independents and Sinn Féin councillors. Cllr Ryan was scathing in his view of the handling of the news saying that the elected members are the directors of the council and for them to be told in the media that this was happening was “crazy.”
“From what I understand, notice of the plan was served on the representatives of the workers before our meeting last week and we weren’t told about it. This is going to effect front line services no matter what anyone says,” he said.
When the news broke of the widespread culling of jobs, there was outrage among a number of elected members who were fuming that they were not informed of the decision before it was made public.
“I’m shocked as it’s savage, I’m 33 years working for the councils and I’ve never seen anything like this”, said Fianna Fáil Cllr Blackie Gavin, while Sinn Féin Cllr Gerry Murray told the Mayo Advertiser that, “We should have been briefed about this and not hearing about it in the media.”
Fine Gael Cllr Peter Flynn reacted to the news saying: “I don’t take any pleasure in seeing anyone losing their job, but it’s the reality of where we have come too. For too long people have had their heads buried in the sand on this issue.
“It’s clear to see from the finances and the programmes of works in the likes of capital works, planning and housing that there is not the finances there for these things and the work isn’t there,” he said.
It is understood, that under the proposed plan, it will see cuts across the board, but the vast majority will involve clerical officers, general operatives, plant operators, craft workers and gangers.
The plan is to bring the total staff employed by the council down from over 1,100 two years ago closer to 900 after the cuts. There has been a recruitment freeze imposed on the council for a number of years which has already led to a number of issues for the council with staff not being replaced after they retire, especially among the outdoor staff.
Mr John McHale, acting County Secretary for Mayo County Council, told the Mayo Advertiser yesterday that no enforced redundancies will take place, and that the reduction in staff will be achieved through retirement, voluntary early retirement, or voluntary redundancy.
He also said that the council are implementing the provisions of the Croke Park agreement and were following and complying with the recommendations of the efficiency review group for financial reasons. Mr McHale also said that the council were in consultation with the unions involved on the issue.
Cllr Gavin also hit out at the local authority for spending a big sum on buying the old Daly’s hotel recently when this news was coming down the line.
“I’ve been talking to people and they are saying they were able to spend €680,000 on buying Daly’s Hotel and where is that money coming from.”
With the majority of cuts expected to come to frontline staff, Cllr Gerry Murray said that this is going to have a dramatic effect on the council’s ability to deliver the services it is supposed to. “We can’t do without the front-line staff, we’re struggling as it is to provide the services that the council are supposed to provide the people, never mind with these massive proposed cuts. For example I have money allocated for works a long time ago and they still haven’t been carried out and might not be ‘til after September.”
While Cllr Flynn said that cuts had to happen, they had to happen in the right areas not just the lowest paid level.
“I don’t know is it the right areas that they are going to cut from, but we have created so many executive positions since the impfementation of the better local government plan there are people there who aren’t doing anything, because there is no work for them.
“It’s not the lower paid staff who are earning €20,000 or €25,0000 who they should be looking to cut, it’s that level who are on €70,000 and €80,000 who aren’t doing work because there is no real work for them to do.”