Council’s €1.5m spend on Government-trumpeted jobs scheme slammed

Cllr Des O'Grady

Cork county councillors have expressed shock at the amount of money the council had to spend on the Government-trumpeted Gateway jobs scheme.

Sinn Féin councillor Des O’Grady said he was shocked that the council had to spend nearly €1.5m on providing work schemes for 205 Gateway workers assigned to it since 2014.

He had asked for a report on the costs associated with the Gateway scheme, which many councillors previously described as forced labour.

Jobseekers were given just €20 per week on top of their social welfare payments to work with different organisations.

In many cases, the €20 did not even cover the cost of transport to their allocated work areas, leaving a number of Gateway employees out of pocket.

“As you can see from the report €1.5m fell on council,” said Mr O’Grady.

I thought it would be fully-funded by the Government. I never saw this in the council budget before.

He pointed out that this was the second time that the council had been left with a shortfall in its budget by the Government.

Mr O’Grady had previously discovered that the Government had left the council €7m short in compensation for storm damage caused in recent years.

However, he did say that he was pleased that some Gateway workers had now acquired full-time employment with the council.

John Walsh, the council’s head of personnel, said that, during the life of the scheme, which has since been scrapped, 22 Gateway participants were recruited to temporary posts within the council.

To date just one person has been given a permanent position as a roadworks foreman and eight people have been employed as general operatives.

Meanwhile, the council plans to recruit a further 39 former Gateway workers to its permanent general operatives staff in the coming weeks.

Mr Walsh said that 57 applications were received from ex-Gateway workers and interviews for the positions are currently underway.

Mr O’Grady said that he welcomed news that some had already got permanent jobs with the local authority and that more were due to follow.

However, he maintained that more people should have been employed.

“I know the Gateway scheme wasn’t ideal, but it provided great service,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Ian Doyle.

“There’s some positive outcome.”

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