Almost €5 million has been saved by Laois County Council by cutting over 110 jobs in the past two years, while the county manager says he will not be rehiring any retired staff back on contract.
The ban on recruitment enforced by the Croke Park agreement meant that 64 core staff were not replaced. A further 24 contract staff and 30 short term staff were let go, while twelve retired, leaving 380 staff and 71 retained firefighters employed. More money was saved by sharing services with other counties, and cutting the number of directors. Further savings are anticipated when water meters and the septic tank levy are put in place.
County Manager Peter Carey says they are on a “knife edge”.
“There is nobody under thirty left. We are trying to sustain an acceptable level of service. None of us want to see staff laid off. It gives me no pleasure to implement closure of offices and wind down the machinery yard, but we had to take these decisions. We have redeployed staff, but it has had an impact, we have to acknowledge there are problems. We are on a knife edge, we have to juggle,” he said.
Reports of retired staff being brought back on contract in the public service won’t happen in Laois he says.
“It certainly hasn’t happened here. It’s not something I would countenance, it’s hard enough to pay our own staff without bringing others back,” he said.
Cllr James Deegan said the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, gave a commitment that 3,000 staff could be recruited in the public service.
“I hope that Laois County Council avail of this, and beef up our management team. It is causing some fear in communities regarding the fire service and rumours of stations closing down,” he said.
Cllr Marty Phelan asked for more road workers.
“We need more road staff. It’s unbelievable the condition of roads and flooding. We are really short ground staff in Borris in Ossory, if we are getting more staff, think of there first,” he said.
Mr Carey replied that maintaining and possibly increasing the number of outdoor staff was a priority.
“Regarding the Fire Service, there is a national study around the process of standard operating procedures, numbers of fire fighters and training. We will see what comes out of that. We run our service for €3 million,” he said.
“Cllr John King, a fire fighter, suggested fewer training nights to save money, rather than closing stations.
“You can have a team overtrained,” he said.