Council under fire after spending €31,000 on 'bespoke' conference table and chairs

By Gordon Deegan

A €51,562 spend by a local authority on revamping its main meeting room including an outlay of €31,093 on a ‘bespoke’ table and 22 chairs has been described as an ‘extravagance and unnecessary’.

New figures released by Clare County Council in response to a Freedom of Information request show that the local authority has spent €13,099 on the seven-metre ‘bespoke’ table with the Council coat of arms and €17,994 on the chairs.

The records show that the chairs each cost €817.95 while an accompanying wall unit cost €3,431 and €1,715 on a wall unit.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil member of the Council, PJ Kelly described the €51,562 spend as "an extravagance and an un-necessary spend of money when the Council is so short of money on so many fronts.”

He said: “It is a huge amount of money on a refurbishment when you consider that the Council HQ building is only 10 years old."

Cllr Kelly said that the spend is an example of not good value for money for the tax payer.

He said: “The money would have been better spent on filling pot holes on rural roads around Clare.”

Asst General Secretary of Forsá union in the Midwest, Mike McNamara described the €51,562 spend as ‘astronomical’.

However, the spend on the room was yesterday robustly defended by the mayor of Clare, Cllr Tom McNamara (FF).

He said: “I am fully in favour of the spend and it is good value for money. It is money well spent.”

Cllr McNamara said prior to the meeting room being revamped, there was no place suitable to bring delegations from outside Clare at the Council HQ.

He said: “This is the HQ of the Council and there was no real reception room for delegations before now. It was absolutely awful. We would have delegations from China, Japan - 10 or 12 delegations a year.

He said: “We are selling the county and we have to be serious and professional about what we are doing and the new conference room shows that we are.”

A statement for the Council pointed out yesterday that the upgraded meeting room hosts VIPs visiting the Council HQ as well as the Corporate Policy Group (CPG) made up of councillors and the council executive.

The statement said that the room “also is used for management meetings, staff meetings, meetings with Elected Members, and meetings with outside bodies and agencies. There were more than 60 scheduled meetings held in this room during the three month period from January 2018 to March 2018”.

The statement went on to state that the revamp of the main meeting room arose from a request from management to ascertain whether the allocation of meeting rooms could be optimised in order to more directly accommodate the functional needs of the entire staff complement.

He said: “The study recommended that as the Conference Room was not designed to accommodate more than 15 people in a formal meeting setting, the best option would be to make the room larger by breaking into the adjoining small meeting room.”

An internal report released through the FOI Act show that the estimate on the final bill for the room revamp would be between €40,000 and €50,000.

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