A COUNCILLOR tried a bit of light-hearted staff poaching in time for the upcoming local elections at the recent meeting of Borris/Mountmellick Municipal District.
“Are you any good at canvassing?” cllr Brendan Phelan enquired with a smile of area engineer Stan Cullen after he heard how Mr Cullen had already walked the entire village of Cullohill inspecting the footpaths.
This came to light after a motion by cllr Phelan in relation to the deleterious state of that village’s pavements and his surprise at the prompt response.
Mr Cullen was able to tell cllr Phelan that “repairs would be undertaken”, but did not give any indication of a timeline.
This led cllr Phelan to address what he saw as a staff shortage within his district.
“We’re the biggest area and we’re short-staffed,” he said, noting that the assistant engineer was out injured and that there were “rumours” about Mr Cullen leaving, but he quickly scotched that.
“We have money left over from last year and we can’t spend it,” he alleged.
“Hopefully, like a (Premier League) footballer, he will be offered more to stay!” joked cllr Phelan.
Cllr David Goodwin said that perhaps the district could survive with fewer meetings to take pressure of staff, while cllr Paddy Bracken agreed that “we have a high turnover of staff at engineering level”.
“We haven’t got staff on the ground either and if anyone’s out, it seems to grind to a halt,” he said.
Stan Cullen accepted there “was a lot of disruption in 2018, but still the district managed to do all the work required”.
“We’re on track in terms of tenders gone out to complete the (2019) schedule of works,” he confirmed.
Director of services David Kelly pointed out: “High-calibre staff get promoted and we’ve had two promotions out of this section,” but added that Dermot Dunne was to be allocated to this section.
“Over the last five years, the money (allocated to Laois) has increased quite substantially (from €54m in 2014 to €72m in 2019) and we’re getting the work done,” he added.
Cllr Bracken said he still believed “there’s not enough physical staff on the ground”, to which Mr Kelly retorted: “Which section do we rob to pay, Paul or Pauline?”