By Kieran O’Mahony
COUNCILLORS want to see the numbers of contractors who have had penalties imposed on them for missing Cork County Council deadlines to renovate vacant houses.
At a meeting of the Council recently, Skibbereen-based Councillor Joe Carroll raised the issue with a motion.
He called on Cork County Council to put a timeframe in place, when awarding contracts for the renovation of such houses.
The time between occupancies needs to be reduced, the meeting heard.
‘We need to improve on the turnaround on local authority houses,’ he said. ‘I’m constantly getting complaints from people who are being told certain houses will be ready in a few weeks, but it could be months in the end. I want it looked into as to why it takes so long. This record must stop, and it must stop today.’
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) fully supported the motion and said it was the ‘old chestnut’ again.
‘We have vacant houses with the keys handed back, but we’re still very slow in finishing the works. How many contractors have been penalised for not carrying out the works? We have no idea and more contractors should be appointed so let’s get a timeframe in place.’
Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) pointed out that the Council should employ its own staff to carry out the work, instead of contractors and that the turnaround on houses should be reduced.
‘What are the penalty clauses for contractors and how many were penalised? We need these figures,’ said Cllr O’Grady.
Cllr Gobnait Moynihan (FF) pointed out that it’s not just the vacant housing that there’s a problem with, but that maintenance on houses is taking far too long and that in some cases it’s not even seen as a priority.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said he had raised the issue before and called for some leeway by the Council to allow tenants to carry out maintenance work on their properties.
‘The longer some houses are allowed to be vacant, the greater chance they could become a target for anti-social activity,’ said Cllr Hayes.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said he has seen several houses in his area in Bantry that have been lying idle for over a year, and windows have been broken and graffiti sprayed on them.
‘They have to be sorted, and in one case I know of a lady in Bantry who had to go to St Vincent de Paul to furnish the house,’ said Cllr Collins.
Ballincollig-based Councillor Derry Canty (FG) said some contractors are only using the Council work as a ‘foxer’ and they place more importance on other jobs.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said that members should document any issues and report them to the Council in relation to long turnarounds on vacant houses.
In a response to Cllr Carroll’s query, director of Housing with the Council, Maurice Manning, responded that a timeframe for the completion of works is included in all tender documents and contracts to ensure there are no unnecessary delays and that contracts are executed in an efficient and expedient manner, whilst ensuring value for money for the Council.
‘This contract includes penalty clauses, which can be levied on a contractor if he fails to discharge his duties in accordance with the particular requirements of the contract,’ said Mr Manning.