Council officials came under fire this week for a decision to award a key local infrastructural contract to a company from Northern Ireland.
Elected members, led by Cllr Seamus Butler, questioned why plans to upgrade Longford town’s Main street footpath had not gone to a firm closer to home.
The works, which are expected to cost in the region of €300,000 to complete, formally got underway on Monday.
“I regret that it’s not gone to a company from within the jurisdiction,” said Cllr Butler, before citing that he had no axe to grind with the organisation concerned.
He said there were numerous locally based businesses whose “tongues are hanging out” for work in today’s economic climate.
“Take the (St Mel’s) Cathedral for example. Seventy per cent of its labour comes from the local area. It can be done and we have to start looking at this more cleverly,” he said.
The former Chamber of Commerce president said by awarding public works contracts to more locally based enterprises, there was a greater potential for the local economy to also benefit.
Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock endorsed the Fianna Fail representative’s comments, stating contracts awarded locally would in most circumstances provide much needed revenue for the local economy.
Director of Services Frank Sheridan vowed to talk the matter over with the council’s procurement officer.
He did however stress local authorities like Longford had to abide by rules and regulations handed down from Europe.
“There is very little flexibility for local authorities,” he said.
“We also must bear in mind that Longford companies do win contracts outside of the county as well,” referring to the part Killoe firm Frank Kiernan Structural Steel played in the refurbishment of Granard Library.
In spite of the debate’s all-round significance, there was still time for humour as Cllr Mae Sexton suggested Cllr Butler could provide the council with his own know-how.
“What, my expertise in losing public works contracts?” Cllr Butler joked in response.