Councillors in West Cork say they will not be silenced on the drop-off in staffing.
Members of the West Cork Municipal District have been repeatedly told that staffing is ‘an executive function’ – a matter for Council administration – and not for the elected members.
Skibbereen Cllrs Joe Carroll (FF) and Karen Coakley (FG), as well as independent Cllrs Paul Hayes and Declan Hurley, have been raising the issue at almost every meeting of the West Cork Municipal District, as well as the Western Division meeting of Cork County Council.
On this occasion, they returned to the topic of the ‘disgraceful’ state and lack of ongoing maintenance at numerous West Cork graveyards and said a lack of funding and staffing was to blame.
In the past, Cllr Carroll said the local authority always maintained graveyards and should continue to do so.
A senior executive officer with the Council, Mac Dara O h-Icí, said budget cuts did have an impact on the graveyard maintenance programme, but he said work was still being carried out.
Sometimes, he said, it is by Council staff, or Council staff working out-of-hours. In some situations, he added, contractors have even paid to do the work, as have some local community groups. ‘There was a reduction in the budget this year and we had to cut back on some areas,’ he said, ‘but we can give the councillors a list and an outline of the system that is in place.’
The 2022 budget is under discussion, the official said, adding: ‘If we allocate a bigger budget, we could do more work, but that could be at the expense of another programme of work. The members don’t have any function in relation to staffing. It would be inappropriate to discuss staffing at any meeting.’
Cllr Carroll said ‘the old chestnut’ of staffing would not fall off the agenda. ‘Two-thirds of our staff have gone to Irish Water,’ he alleged. ‘Cork County Council should not have given them without replacing them.
‘If there was work there for them before, there is work there for them now. We have been told there is the same staff. We are not clowns,’ he added.
Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF) also highlighted the fact that a letter was issued to Council workers on September 1st seeking applications to fill vacancies within the organisation.
‘It has irked the workers because they are down to between 15 and 17 workers from about 40 workers 20 years ago,’ she said.
Of the 15, Cllr Kelly estimated that one is out, long-term, on sick leave while two are about to retire.
‘To say there isn’t a staffing issue is incorrect and wrong,’ she said. ‘The issue needs to be addressed.’