Back in May, Labour councillors and others raised concerns around how difficult it had begun to be to get things done by the council, particularly in light of staffing cuts.
There have been a few meetings about the issue since then, and at Monday night’s full council meeting, Dublin City Council officials set out the level of services that the council will commit to providing in the coming year – in other words, how fast they will follow up on complaints and requests.
The report focuses on the 15 services that got the most requests in the past year. Housing maintenance services – which got 65,000 repair requests from tenants in 2017 – has a target to respond to routine service requests in eight working weeks. For urgent ones, there is a faster time frame.
For those working to keep the city’s 46,000 street lights working, the targets are for broken lights to be repaired within five working days of them being reported to the council, and that no more than 2 percent of lights should be out at any one time.
The emphasis of parking enforcement is to keep primary routes free during peak hours, and those are prioritised, the report says. But “vehicles clamped as a result of reports of illegal parking are not distinguished from vehicles clamped as part of (…) routine patrols, and therefore it is not possible to report specifically on these type of service requests.”
For traffic requests, which have taken years in some cases to work their way through the council, the report offers a commitment that they will now be decided within four months of being submitted.
Council chief Owen Keegan said that the review had thrown up “weaknesses” in the area of traffic requests. Some councillors were sceptical that the council would meet the new four-month target.
For planning enforcement, the council’s goal is to acknowledge enforcement complaints within 10 working days, and carry out the first inspection within six weeks of getting the complaint. Cases should be resolved within 12 months, the report says.
“I think for the first time we have identified individuals who are responsible, who set targets, and are prepared to be responsible for those,” said Keegan, of the report as a whole.
Several councillors, though, raised issues about staffing levels, and the number of private contractors used by the council and the variable quality of work that they do.
Labour Councillor Mary Freehill listed the council posts that had been lost since 2012, including 440 posts for outdoor staff and 127 for clerical staff. “There are posts that have just gone,” and there still needs to be a meeting to deal with issues around staffing, she said.
Keegan said that he accepted that staffing levels were an issue of major concern to councillors, but also said that the council can only staff up to the budget that it has.
Last year, the council had major recruitment for the first time in 10 years, he said. “We are not going to recover overnight, unless we get another 20 percent increase in our income.”
Lowering the Sea Wall
A majority of councillors – including all of the councillors in the Clontarf ward – voted in favour of lowering the the height of parts of the flood defence that runs along the seafront there.
The estimated cost of the works to modify the wall is €230,000. The same councillors also supported, in the same vote, a move to put cladding on the wall at a cost of €300,000.
This means that the wall will not meet national standards, under which it should protect against a once-in-200-years tidal event. The changes mean that it would protect against a once-in-100-years event, said John Flanagan, an engineer with the council.
The voted-through changes will mean that the wall will be fine for 10 to 30 years, he said. “After that period, the wall will have to be revisited again.”
This vote followed a lengthy review of the height of the wall triggered by “an adverse public reaction due to the partial loss of views of the South Bull lagoon for motorists on the roadway at the northern end of the scheme”, according to the council report.
People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons, independent Councillor Damien O’Farrell and Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran O’Moore all spoke in favour of the measure.
Others, such as Labour’s Rebecca Moynihan, said they couldn’t back it. It would only be of benefit to “motorists who should have their eyes on the road”, she said.
Fianna Fáil’s Deirdre Heney said that it wasn’t just about motorists, but also about wheelchair users and those walking on the other side of the road from the wall.
If it goes ahead, then the lowering and cladding of the wall should be paid for out of the budget for that area of the city, said Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam.
McAdam also noted issues in the past in parts of his constituency with getting work done to deal with flooding problems. “I will not support it,” he said.
The money to lower the flood wall and make it more attractive would come out of a pot of money for flood-relief schemes, said Flanagan.
If the height of the wall is decreased and there is some flooding, “what are the legal responsibilities of Dublin City Council?” Labour’s Freehill asked.
“We don’t know,” said Flanagan.