Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Galway East Cllr. Anne Rabbitte has expressed major concern about the number of council workers available to help out in the flood relief efforts over the next few days and weeks. Council staffing levels have decreased dramatically over the past five years as a result of the public service recruitment embargo and the repercussions are being felt as the council struggles to manage the severe flooding which has hit Galway.
Cllr. Rabbitte commented, “People living in Portumna, Loughrea, and Craughwell have been left devastated by the floods which hit over the past week. Home owners and business people need to be reassured that there will be enough staff in place to assist in the relief effort if another weather warning was to be put in place.
“I am heartened by the great community spirit in this county. Over the last week everyone has pitched in to help neighbours, farmers and businesses who have been affected by the floods. The Fire Service, Gardai, Civil Defence along with council workers and volunteers have been going above and beyond the call of duty to respond to the scale of this disaster. However, I am gravely concerned that the public service embargo has resulted in a dramatic depletion of available council workers.
“Council staff who took part in the relief efforts over the last two weekends worked tirelessly day and night, but my main concern is the lack of boots on the ground. We have been left with skeleton staffing levels in Galway County Council as a result of the recruitment embargo, despite the fact that the Minister for the Environment has the power to make exceptions to ensure that appropriate service levels are maintained. Now, in the midst of an emergency situation, east Galway is really feeling the effects of the cuts and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
“This Government gave commitments that additional staff would be brought on board through the Gateway scheme, but where are these people now? How many were successful in securing a place on the scheme, and how many were able to find work afterwards?
“Flooding has become an all too familiar occurance in east Galway and the situation has gone from bad to worse. All sections of the community have been spurred into action and we need all hands on deck, however the dramatic drop off in council staffing levels is a matter of grave concern, and Minister Alan Kelly needs to ensure that funding is made available to allow the council to carry out its work effectively so that workers can deal with the crises facing them”.