Local construction firms are feeling effects of EU red tape, council hears

More and more Co Longford building firms are being priced out of potentially lucrative construction projects because of existing procurement laws set down from Europe.

More and more Co Longford building firms are being priced out of potentially lucrative construction projects because of existing procurement laws set down from Europe.

That was the overwhelming verdict of councillors this week after it was confirmed Department of Environment bosses had given the go-ahead for the refurbishment of Trumra Road in Granard.

The project, worth an estimated €1.6m, is however expected to go to a company outside of the county due to stringently imposed EU based legislation.

Involved in the construction industry himself, Cllr Martin Mulleady admitted several businesses, including his own, had eyed up the project only to be left disappointed.

“Most contracts would be based on the previous year’s (turnover) which means it rules out nearly every small contractor in the county. We looked at that job, but there is almost no point in looking at the documentation. This is the hardest thing for local contractors and I have had two contractors onto me regarding that estate.”

Asked by Longford Co Mayor Cllr Sean Farrell what turnover levels locally based companies had to have in order to tender for projects akin to Trumra Road, Cllr Mulleady said the figure was likely to be in excess of €5m.

Clearly frustrated, Cllr Mulleady said refurbishment schemes and ones similar to those in the north Longford town were important streams of revenue for cash strapped local economies.

“What is going to happen is the bigger construction company who has a higher turnover is going to walk in and take this job,” he said.

“There will be no real employment for a company in Longford. I would prefer to see a builder up there employing local people so that that €1.6m stays within the county. There are an awful lot of companies out there that are tax compliant and they simply cannot price these jobs.”

Other councillors typified by the likes of Cllrs Peggy Nolan and Cllr John Duffy supported Cllr Mulleady as he called for a written letter to be sent to Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

The biggest endorsement however did not come from among the council’s 20 other elected representatives, but rather from County Manager Tim Caffrey.

Branding present day procurement guidelines as “unfair”, Mr Caffrey said the topic had already become a major talking point in several other local authorities in recent times.

“This issue has been debated over the last number of years not just in this chamber but I would safely say in nearly every chamber across the county. The regulations as they are now are European regulations which are being implemented at a national level,” he said.

A letter, outlining the views of elected members, is expected to be sent to Government Buildings ahead of next month’s meeting of Longford County Council.