Sligo County Council has poor financial record with €23.5m loss

Loss of €570,000 in 2014 was a dramatic improvement on the €6.3m loss in 2013

Sligo’s losses don’t include whatever the council will have to pay in legal fees from the Lissadell House case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

A local government auditor has questioned why loss-making Sligo County Council spent €15,000 sending a four-person delegation to the US on an eight-day visit for this year's St Patrick's Day.

Sligo County Council has the worst recent financial record of any local authority in the State recording combined losses of €23.5 million between 2008 and 2014.

At the end of last year, the council’s combined losses were €26.6 million – the loss of €570,000 in 2014 was a dramatic improvement on the €6.3 million loss in 2013 and the €2.45 million loss in 2012.

The losses don't include whatever the council will have to pay in legal fees from the Lissadell case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Accumulated loss

On the accumulated loss of €26.6 million, Local Government auditor

Raymond Lavin

said in his 2014 audit: “This is a very serious matter for the Council to address. Since 2008, the Council has incurred continuous deficits. The accounts of all local authorities are meant to be in line with the adopted budget for each year. This has not been the case in Sligo Co Council.”

Ciarán Hayes, who was appointed chief executive of Sligo County Council last year, says the council would have recorded a surplus in 2014 but for an “unfair” decision by the Department of the Environment to withdraw funding of €750,000. Mr Hayes said that 33 per cent of the workforce at the council – 213 jobs – have been lost as a result of cost reductions and financial stability is starting to return.

Tourism

On the cost of the St Patrick’s Day trip, Mr Hayes said: “Three elected members, accompanied by the county manager visited cities in the US, with which a sister city or other diaspora relationship exists, and where the opportunity was taken to promote Sligo from both an economic and tourism perspective.”

An audit of Dublin City Council in 2014 found that costs arising from the demolition of defective homes in an affordable and social housing unit scheme came to €2.3 million.It says: "In 2014 a number of partially completed housing units . . . were demolished because of the expansion of the timber frame structures caused by defects in the flooring. The housing association have since initiated legal actions against the original design team, including the main contractor and consultants."

In his formal reply, chief executive of Dublin City Council Owen Keegan said legal action is ongoing against the original design team.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times