*Photograph: Eamon Ward
ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES in East Clare have criticised senior management of Clare County Council for rejecting their request to hold a meeting with the HR department of the local authority.
At the July sitting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) led the call for a meeting with the HR department of the Council to be organised due to “a shortage of workers”. He stated, “I’m of the opinion that there is a deficit in certain areas that need to be addressed, it is having a seriously negative impact on service delivery”.
Cllr O’Brien was frustrated at the most recent meeting of the Killaloe MD held in September that the request to hold this sitdown was not followed up on. “One of the things that arose from the last meeting was that I asked the Acting Director to arrange a meeting with HR staff and senior management on staffing levels. Why were we not given a meeting. There has been no replacement for our executive engineer who has moved on, staffing levels have depleted and it is becoming nigh-on impossible to get work done”.
After fifteen months as acting executive engineer in the Killaloe MD, Derek Troy moved on from the role in July to take up a senior executive engineer role with Galway County Council. In the current Council term (2019-2024), he becomes the third senior engineer to leave the Killaloe MD, Tom Mellett moved on to the equivalent role in the Shannon Municipal District while his predecessor Niamh Madden transferred to the housing section of the local authority.
Service delivery across East Clare continues to be impacted, Cllr O’Brien maintained. “We need a full-time engineer and when we don’t have we can’t give a full service. I’m disappointed the meeting didn’t happen”.
Director of Service, Anne Haugh issued apologies for missing the July meeting but said she was aware of the request. She committed to follow up on the matter, “matters of a HR nature are the responsibility of the Chief Executive and he holds the Executive function”.
She continued, “Each and every one of you have raised the issue with me, I have escalated it to HR and to the management team, it is a budgetary matter”. Ms Haugh noted that some of the East Clare councillors sit on the Corporate Policy Group and advised them to raise the matter at a CPG meeting, “additional staff has to be consideration for this year’s budget.
“Absences also end up being a budgetary matter for replacement. Across the board at every level in the local authority, there is challenges for the recruitment process and staff vacancies, replacing staff is not an overnight process anymore, it hasn’t been for quite some time, to get to the panel process can be slow at times, it needs to be raised at a CPG level”.
In response, Cllr O’Brien outlined that a request for a meeting was made at an MD level. He told the Director, “you did ring me and we did chat about it, that request was denied off hand without any reason. To me that is not acceptable, when I ask for something as Chair of the MD it is for a good reason, if it had to go through CPG that should have came back”. He added, “we are very depleted in resources particularly personnel, it is not good enough”.
Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) said he was “glad” his colleague raised the issue. “Our Director has clearly outlined that we’ve all asked the question, I don’t accept that it is all a budgetary issue, we’ve lost one of our best engineers to an adjoining county and him not being replaced with 23 years experience is a HR issue, we do need to discuss resourcing of our MDs and staffing on the ground”.
Within the Rural Development SPC, there was “a challenging debate” on Active Travel and the absence of funds from this pot to rural Clare. “We did raise the issue at the CPG and we were given a similar answer of budgetary matters, I’m far from happy about it”.
Hopes of an appointment for Troy’s successor in the near future were voiced by Cllr Joe Cooney (FG). He acknowledged, “it has been worked on but it has been dragged out”.
Clare County Council are losing too many good people, Cllr Cooney felt. “We’re losing good staff from the Council, we want our county to be progressing. If we don’t drive on, we won’t be progressing, we have budgets coming up, hopefully we will get position sorted”.