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20/10/2021

'Homer Simpson would tell you the river is blocked' - Laois councillors scrutinise reliance on consultants

Doh! Eir refuses to take away Homer Simpson  in Laois

Homer in action.

Spending on private sector consultants by Laois County Council has come under scrutiny by county councillors, one of whom believes ‘Homer Simpson’ would be able to tell the local authority what work is needed in some cases.

Local politicians also queried if more work could be done by staff in county hall. One councillor insisted that blocked rivers does not need expert analysis before work is done. 

Cllr Aisling Moran, Fine Gael, raised the issue in the context of the hiring of consultants to draw up and implement the Portarlington Regeneration Plan.

She and other Portarlington Graiguecullen Municipal District Councillors were told that consultants were hired to draw up the plan and further outside help would be needed to implement aspects of it.

“We’re spending a huge amount of money on outside consultants. Do we not have the people,” she asked Director of Services Gerry Murphy.

He replied that a range of expertise was required in Portarlington which the council does not have. He said the consultants recruited could draw on a range of people skilled in areas such as ecology and traffic.

“It is quite complicated,” she said.

Cllr Moran asked how much money out of a funding for big projects would be spent on consultants. 

Mr Murphy, who is also the council's head of finance, said it does cover the consultancy cost but it would also pay for work needed. He committed to providing the figures to the meeting.

Cllr Moran was convinced that it may be cheaper for the council to hire staff.

“If we had some of these people full time it would cost less,” she said.

Cllr Aidan Mullins, Sinn Féin, said it was the best option financially to recruit consultants for the Portarlington plan but he questioned why consultancy reports were needed before rivers could had cleared to stop flooding. He said the Barrow Bridge in Portarlington is blocked with debris, trees and silt. 

“To clear a river we have to get a report from a company and then get the approval of the planning department,” he said.

He added that private external consultants should not be needed and council staff should carry out the assessment.

“Homer Simspon would tell you this river is blocked, we don’t need a consultant’s report,” he said.

Cllr Moran said work that has an impact on the environment should take precedence if necessary.

“If there is (an ecological impact) we’ll have to suck it up because the river is blocked and is flooding Spa Street in winter,” he said. 

Senior Engineer Philip McVeigh replied that there was ‘no doubt’ but the river needs to be cleared. However, he said that the commissioning of an ecological study is standard practice to show there would be no adverse impact. 

Spending on private sector consultants by Laois County Council has come under scrutiny by county councillors, one of whom believes ‘Homer Simpson’ would be able to tell the local authority what work is needed in some cases.

While politicians did not specify how much is being spent, they have queried if more work could be done by staff in county hall. One councillor insisted that blocked rivers does not need expert analysis before work is done. 

Cllr Aisling Moran, Fine Gael, raised the issue in the context of the hiring of consultants to draw up and implement the Portarlington Regeneration Plan.

She and other Portarlington Graiguecullen Municipal District Councillors were told that consultants were hired to draw up the plan and further outside help would be needed to implement aspects of it.

“We’re spending a huge amount of money on outside consultants. Do we not have the people,” she asked Director of Services Gerry Murphy.

He replied that a range of expertise was required in Portarlington which the council does not have. He said the consultants recruited could draw on a range of people skilled in areas such as ecology and traffic.

“It is quite complicated,” she said.

Cllr Moran asked how much money out of a funding for big projects would be spent on consultants. 

He said it does cover the cost but it would also cover the cost. He committed to providing the figures to the meeting.

Cllr Moran was convinced that it may be cheaper for the council to hire staff.

“If he had some of these people full time it would cost less,” she said.

Cllr Aidan Mullins, Sinn Féin, said it was the best option financially to recruit consultants for the Portarlington plan but he questioned why consultants were needed before rivers could had cleared to stop flooding. He said the Barrow Bridge in Portarlington is blocked with debris, trees and silt. 

“To clear a river we have to get a report from a company and then get the approval of the planning department,” he said.

He added that private external consultants should not be needed and council staff should carry out the assessment.

“Homer Simspon would tell you this river is blocked, we don’t need a consultant’s report,” he said.

Cllr Moran said work that has an impact on the environment should take precedence if necessary.

“If there is (an ecological impact) we’ll have to suck it up because the river is blocked and is flooding Spa Street in winter,” he said. 

Senior Engineer Philip McVeigh replied that there was ‘no doubt’ but the river needs to be cleared. However, he said that the commissioning of an ecological study is standard practice to show there would be no adverse impact. 

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