Council road crews hit by cuts

CLOSED offices, fewer council workers and a downgraded depot are among the results of spending cuts forced on Laois County Council in the last year.

CLOSED offices, fewer council workers and a downgraded depot are among the results of spending cuts forced on Laois County Council in the last year.

Details of cuts and changes to services in the the council’s eastern area, which stretches from Portarlington to Graiguecullen and includes Stradbally, were discussed last week by councillors and senior council staff in Port.

The cuts mean two offices in Port and Graigue will close, there will be few staff to fix potholes and do other repairs. The Stradbally council depot, which opened within the past 5 years, faces a downgrade with the loss of a dedicated team of workers.

Engineering and clerical staff have been relocated to council HQ while others are likely to have to work once again from prefabs.

Orla Barrett, senior engineer for the area, said the retirement of a supervisor in Stradbally meant that the four remaining staff based there would work from Port and Graigue.

She said the council is left with 13 outdoor staff in the Eastern area, which is a third less that what would have been six workers at each depot.

The council’s public office in Port and Stradbally will also close because there was little use by the public.

She said the eastern area had a €15 million budget council and the job of offices was to get services delivered, and dealing with the public was always secondary.

Kieran Kehoe, acting director of services said the changes were the result of a review of services. He said it showed that the public had not availed of the public offices in Graigue and Port.

Cllr Ray Cribbin was the only councillor who felt that Port should keep a pubic office. However, Orla Barrett said a big increase in resources and staff would be needed to meet the public’s needs.

Cllr James Deegan described the changes as “strategic management of scarce resources”.

Commenting on the retirements, Mr Kehoe said the council had experienced a big strain on resources. He said 31 staff retired in the mass retirement of public servants in February which added to the 100 who have departed council hall since spending cuts have been imposed.

Councillors and staff lamented the loss of Mr PJ Brennan after 46 years. According to Cllr James Deegan he did not wish to retire. Ms Barrett said he would be a major loss.