A gradual fall-off in public sector numbers has seen Longford Co Council’s outdoor staff numbers drop by almost a third.
The steady decline affecting local authority personnel was hammered home at last week’s meeting of Granard Municipal District.
It came as councillors raised concerns over current legislation which prohibits farmers from carrying out hedge cutting from March to September each year.
Only on safety grounds are local authorities and landowners allowed to interfere in what is commonly known as ‘bird nesting season’, something area engineer Eamon Bennett was keen to highlight to elected members.
However, he also revealed a steady decline in council workers had forced the local authority’s hand into outsourcing certain parts of its hedge cutting requirements.
“We are not in a position to put a crew out,” he said. “We have gone to the tender process and they (successful tender) will be starting in the second week of August.”
Mr Bennett also revealed numbers had slumped from around “28 or 29” outdoor staff to something in the region of 20.
“You would be down a crew in each area,” he said.
It was an admission which drew a skeptical response from Fianna Fail’s Martin Mulleady.
“I know there is an embargo in place, but how can you do the work if you haven’t got the men?”
We are down (workers) in north, south and mid Longford. When it comes to Christmas and the frost comes in and we don’t have the men to do the work, we (councillors) will be the ones getting all the calls.”
Pressure meanwhile, was put on the council’s executive to contact landowners in an effort to ensure their hedgerows are maintained once the veto is lifted.
When this was deemed too costly, members settled on the alternative of writing to the Department in an effort to establish a local list of landowners.
Should that request be accepted, Cathaoirleach John Duffy said it was his hope the council’s financial position might allow it to review the matter in 12 months time.