County Council denies ‘limbo’ status over merger speculation

County Hall

Galway County Council workers fear that essential services such as pothole repairs will be drastically cut back because of staff layoffs – which they believe are part of a ‘background’ plan for the local authority’s merger with the City Council.

Tomorrow (Friday), the already-stretched department which looks after road maintenance across the county will lose a further five drivers.

Staff argue road maintenance will be down to a skeleton service. They have the equipment – including two brand new ‘171’ trucks paid for and sitting in a yard in the midlands awaiting collection – but do not have the driver-operators.

Acting Chief Executive of the County Council, Kevin Kelly, confirmed to the Connacht Tribune this week that a series of meetings have taken place of the review group on the proposed amalgamation of the two local authorities.

However, he insisted there is “absolutely no connection whatsoever” between the layoffs and the work of the review group.

A number of staff who spoke to this newspaper over the past week said morale amongst workers is at a new low, as temporary staff are being laid off and not replaced – some after several years of service on ‘rolling’ contracts.

A Council source said: “The road maintenance ‘team’ will be down to six or seven drivers covering the entire county of Galway from Claddaghduff to Portumna. A skeleton service.”

Independent county councillor Tom Welby said the local authority is in a ‘state of paralysis’ because of the findings of last October’s report from the Galway Local Government Review Committee which recommended the merger of the City and County Councils.

Cllr Welby said: “Temporary staff would always have been made aware before the end of their contract that they would be taken on again. But there is no news this time. There is a very real fear that people are being let go and will not be replaced because of the proposed merger with the city, and apparently, the City Council has been making temporary staff permanent. People see that as the city getting all their ducks in a row.

“Staff will already tell you that they’re overloaded, and now more workers will be let go,” said Cllr Welby.

A Council source said: “These are all truck and machinery drivers. Some of these would be considered senior staff, with a few years of service, albeit broken service because of rolling contacts.

“In the past two years, the number of drivers will have gone from 14 to six after these workers are gone. Next Monday, if an area of the county wants a truck to fill potholes, there won’t be enough drivers, so a private contractor will have to be paid to come in.

For the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.