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Council bill on COVID-19 response hits half a million euro

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*Photograph: John Mangan

Clare County Council has racked up a bill in the region of €500,000 to date as part of its response to dealing with COVID-19.

Local authorities all over the country have been asked to provide details on their spend associated with informing the public throughout the health crisis. Head of Finance with Clare County Council, Noeleen Fitzgerald confirmed, “We’ve been asked to capture those costs,” such findings will form a case study to be made to the Government “to outline those costs that have been incurred”.

Speaking at the June meeting of the County Council, Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) quizzed officials on “the extra cost” placed on their shoulders “because of the extra effort”. He questioned what was the cost to date, if the Government would compensate the Council, “who pays for the signs on the roads and the advertisements in the newspapers? Is it extra expenditure and is it recoupable,” the Lissycasey representative asked.

Ms Fitzgerald revealed that close to half a million euros has been the bill to date for Clare County Council. Cllr Kelly acknowledged the local authority was “dealing with a very difficult situation” and queried if such a spend was in compliance with statutory provisions and the Budget passed by councillors but Noeleen said that there is a provision for a public health emergency.

“We are keeping a very close tab,” Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling assured elected representatives. “There is a very strong national case, our job will be to make sure the net impact on finances are as small as possible”.

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) admitted to being “very concerned” with the figures, “Do we as an elected body need to give statutory approval”. He questioned if the Council required a statutory resolution to allow them seek compensation from the Government.

Dowling responded, “We will have to deal with the Government as best we can”. He stressed the strategic importance of looking beyond this year so far as their finances were concerned but admitted the hit in 2020 was a “juggernaut”.

Pressure needs to be put on Clare’s five Oireachtas members to ensure the Council is reimbursed, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) maintained. “We have five Oireachtas members in Clare, they should be brought into your office with regard to getting payment,” he told the Chief Executive. “There should be no cost factor with COVID-19, they should be able to reclaim this money”.

Members will be kept informed on efforts to recoup the money, Dowling stated. “Local Government is the agent of state closest to the citizen. Our ongoing development of services is crucial. I am confident we will make a very strong case to be compensated adequately”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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