Coronavirus

Councillor criticises postponement of Council meetings

He is being denied the right to challenge and question officials

Donal O'Grady

Reporter:

Donal O'Grady

Email:

news@leitrimobserver,ie

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An update from Leitrim County Council Chief Executive, Lar Power to all councillors and senior staff members outlining the measures being taken during the current crisis and looking for their support has been challenged by Cllr Des Guckian.

Cllr Guckian is particularly concerned that all Council meetings and municipal district meetings have been postponed.

He said this is a threat to the independence and rights of councillors to make meaningful and sensible contributions and to challenge and question officials.

Mr Power, in his update, assured members that “in the interests of public health and the requirement to take necessary precautions to protect the public, our communities, and our staff from Covid-19, we are implementing all necessary measures and following Government / HSE guidelines and advice.”

“Members will appreciate that the situation is very fluid and evolving on a day to day basis. The scale of the situation is unprecedented, however, we are endeavouring to provide the highest level of public services that the situation allows.

“In this regard I would like to appraise you of the following:-

“We have established a business continuity crisis management team who meet on a daily basis to review and respond to issues as they arise. Every effort is being made to ensure business continuity across all services in so far as possible within the context of available resources.

“Services remain operational, however, in order to limit contact and minimise the risk of spreading the virus we have taken the decision to restrict access to all Leitrim County Council premises.

“We are asking the public to engage with Leitrim County Council and access our services either online, by email or over the telephone with immediate effect. This measure is being taken to avoid unnecessary face to face interaction and facilitate social distancing as recommended by government guidelines.

“Our, libraries, civic amenity sites located at Manorhamilton and Mohill and all our other public offices (Park Lane House and Manorhamilton Area Office included) are closed to the public until further notice.

“In consultation with the Cathaoirleach, it has been decided to postpone all Council meetings including municipal district meetings and committee meetings until further notice.

“The public are being kept informed of all developments as they arise through our social media channels, website and the local media (press and radio).

“We must continue our efforts in encouraging the public to stay safe by following the recommendations of the HSE over the coming weeks; in particular, the advice on hand washing and social distancing should be followed and Members can play a key role in this regard in your communities.

“We also need to make every effort to support our communities and especially the more vulnerable and the supporting role that members can play in this regard is very valuable.

“The continued support of the members at this challenging time is acknowledged and we appreciate your patience and understanding at this time,” he concluded.

However, Cllr Guckian, in reply to Mr Power, said, “My concern is that, already, little enough solid business is being carried on at public County Council and municipal meetings level.

“There tends to be a lot of rubber-stamping and not many real debates.

“If we postpone for months on end, will councillors be denied the right to challenge and to question the decisions of officials?

“I see this as a threat to our independence and to our rights to make meaningful and sensible contributions in order to get a balance put into your policies and into your particular type of administration,” he said.