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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Council seeks to axe 42 workers as debts create €10m shortfall

Michael Brennan and Gerry Maguire

A county council is seeking to make 42 workers redundant to tackle its massive financial crisis -- which has left it requiring a €10m State bailout.

Sligo County Council needs an immediate cash injection to keep running because it can no longer get bank agreement to extend its €7.5m overdraft.

A leaked consultants report said the council needed a voluntary-redundancy scheme to persuade 42 of its 409 remaining staff to leave. But it will need the Government's permission to do this -- because the jobs are protected under the Croke Park Agreement.

The number of council staff has already dropped from 506 to 409 over the past four years.

The Grant Thornton report said the council was facing a financial crisis that required "immediate attention". It recommended that the State should provide a "once-off injection" of €10m so that the council could get rid of its unsustainable bank overdraft of €7.5m.

The confidential report is due to be discussed by members of Sligo County Council at a special meeting tomorrow.

Problems

It found that staffing costs, poor debt collection, a drop in State funding and the increased cost of its water- and waste-treatment programme were among the main causes of Sligo County Council's financial problems.

It noted that staff in the council had the highest levels of sick days among local authorities nationwide in 2010 -- three weeks per year on average.

"This high rate has a knock-on financial effect for the county which is already struggling to provide essential services," the report said.

And the report urged council managers to drastically cut the inflated wage bill which has seen 61 staff getting "acting up" allowances for filling roles when people are absent, ill or on holidays. The report found that this is costing the council €400,000 per year -- even though they have not been formally approved. It called for these arrangements to be halted immediately to save up to €300,000 per year.

Independent Sligo county councillor Declan Bree last night criticised the fact that the consultants had not been given the task of examining the performance of council management -- even though the council has "the worst financial record in the country".

The council's top 20 earners are being paid a total of €1.66m per annum. Sligo County Manager Hubert Kearns is paid €136,509 which is almost €30,000 more than the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Irish Independent

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