Longford Town Councillors have expressed concern over what they see as a continual downgrading of the urban local authority, following the moving of a series of services and decision-making towards the County Council over a period of time.
Town Mayor, Cllr Christy Warnock, in expressing his dissatisfaction, said recent developments have raised a series of questions about the future of the Town Council.
Cllr Warnock received the backing of his fellow councillors, which included County Mayor Cllr Paul Connell, for a special meeting of Town and Mid-Longford councillors to be convened after the General Election with the County Manager, Co Council Director of Finance, Co Council Human Resources, Town Manager and Town Clerk,
Cllr Warnock said, “An area where they have taken away the powers from this council is the collection of rates and the decision-making behind what happens to the rates after they’re collected.
“We want to invite the finance officer of Longford Co Council who appears to be taking over the mantle of deciding what happens to the money that’s collected by Longford Town Council. That to me is scandalous; it’s outrageous and it shouldn’t happen, and I know it wouldn’t happen in any other local authority.”
The Town Mayor claimed there was an effort to reduce the council’s responsibilities.
“It’s obvious to me, and to everyone here, that they’re looking to downgrade this council. It’s another way of getting rid of Town Councils. To me when they start taking away all the functions of a local authority it means they’re trying to get rid of us and this is an easy way of doing it,” he said.
Cllr Paul Connell also raised the issue of the full-time planner based at the Town Council being taken away from them, and now replaced with a team of planners who work on Town Council business two days a week.
Cllr Tony Flaherty said the council has lost a foreman, three tradesmen and four operatives in the last two years, none of whom have been replaced.
He said the three traffic wardens who were reappointed are employees of the County Council and can now “be based anywhere in the county”.
Cllr Flaherty insisted that the Town Council was an independent body, but that decisions related to the town were being made by the a County Council executive “who do not even attend our meetings”.
“How can they make decisions for us, when they don’t know what’s going on?” Cllr Flaherty fumed.
“Let them tell us what their role is in Longford Town Council and is there any need for us to be here if they’re making decisions for us as elected representatives,” said Cllr Flaherty, who added the councillors were taking the flak for those decisions.
Cllr Connell said the Town Council’s engineers, two assistant and one full engineer, “are doing more work around the town in the areas that they are responsible for than the County Council is doing with in excess of 30 engineers”.
Cllr Peggy Nolan described the Town Council as one of the most efficient in the country. “Something that hasn’t been said is that this town council is self-funding. We get a very small allocation from central government,” she said.
“As far as I’m concerned, the erosion of this town council has to stop, because the support that the councillors get from the officials is second to none,” she added.
Cllr Alan Mitchell said if the County Manager has taken on the role of making Town Council decisions, then he (Tim Caffrey) should attend the urban authority’s monthly meeting. Cllr Warnock noted that while he didn’t have to attend, former manager Michael Killeen would attend most Town Council meetings.
He hoped that all those invited would attend the special meeting. “The people deserve to know. What are they going out for every five years and voting in councillors if they’re not able to give them answers?” said Cllr Warnock.