Monday 22 December 2014

Raft of council failures exposed

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 18/11/2010 | 05:00

A SERIES of major failings in the management of a local authority are today exposed in a damning report.

Carlow County Council is criticised over "lost" planning files and allowing quarries to operate illegally in a confidential internal report seen by the Irish Independent.

The report -- by former Carlow town clerk John Quinlivan -- was ordered after numerous complaints were made about planning in the county.

It also slams the council for low staff morale and not responding to letters of complaint.

It followed revelations in the Irish Independent last April that a Department of the Environment auditor had identified "corporate governance issues" in the planning department, including the use of "special development contributions" and planning permissions being granted by default because they were not processed within the statutory eight weeks.

It also raised concerns about the use of planning enforcement powers and the disposal of council-owned land without a valuation being carried out.

More than 100 people were interviewed by John Quinlivan as part of the internal investigation. The document will be made public this afternoon.

The report examines the actions of Carlow County Council during the boom years of 2005 to 2009. County manager Tom Barry commissioned the review in response to disquiet in the public and building industry in Carlow.

Although highly critical of certain areas within the council, sources said last night that they expected a Department of Environment report into the same issues to be even more damning once it is completed.

Mr Barry issued a statement to councillors last night admitting that "irregular practices" needed to be "addressed and eliminated". The statement also said there were "weaknesses in corporate governance" at Carlow County Council.

Security

Carlow County Council made 5,441 planning decisions in the period on which the report centres. File security was pinpointed as an area of concern in Mr Quinlivan's review.

Improved administration is recommended to "eliminate any allegation of irregularities".

The council has also been told to "apply immediate legal processes to bring all quarries within the planning system".

There are 37 quarries in the county -- and three have no permission. The review condemns the poor staff working relationships in the council.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Environment is to probe planning practices in six local authorities, including Carlow.

County manager Tom Barry previously said he was confident the department would find no "wrongdoing".

Irish Independent

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