Cork City Council has had to revise practices for the management of its 140 vehicles as a result of a Revenue audit that cost the local authority almost €1.4m.
The council’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, said the changes will be a problem for the council as vehicles that can carry more than two people now have to be parked in a central location at night.
Ms Doherty said that requirement could reduce flexibility in responding to emergency callouts.
The changes were made after the council paid €654,000 in benefit-in-kind for the use of council vehicles by staff, out of a total tax sum of €1,358,000. Ms Doherty said the council had to replace the majority of its larger vehicles with two-seaters, which can be taken home, to retain an appropriate out-of-hours response capacity.
In response to an annual audit report for 2017, by the Local Government Audit Service, Ms Doherty said the changes were “likely to pose significant operational challenges to the city council, in the carrying-out of its services, whereby flexibility is lost by virtue of larger, multi-factorial vehicles not always being available”.
The council boss said that a high degree of mobility and flexibility is required for the transportation of workers, equipment, and supplies to various sites in providing services 24/7.
Previously, drivers were allowed to take home all types of council vehicles — from light commercial to small vans — as they were required to be on-call to respond to emergencies outside working hours.
According to Cork City Council, it handles 2,200 emergency out-of-hours callouts each year.
Ms Doherty said the council does not have premises for the secure overnight parking of more than 140 vehicles, which often contain expensive equipment and plant. She said the cost of upgrading an existing facility or depot, or of locating new premises for the overnight parking of the fleet, would have been considerable, while there is also the issue of the security of the vehicles and their contents.
The LGAS report revealed the breakdown of the council’s payment to Revenue, which arose from its failure to correctly apply tax legislation. The Revenue audit followed the council’s unprompted disclosure and payment of €216,000, in 2016, to the tax authorities, in relation to an underpayment of PRSI for Job Bridge scheme participants who subsequently became full-time council employees, covering the period 2007-2014.
Other elements of the tax demand by Revenue included €37,000 for Vat, €99,000 in taxation of coroner’s fees, and €25,000 for the eating-on-site allowance. The council also had to pay €198,000 on overdue tax and penalties totalling €51,000.
The LGAS reported noted that Cork City Council has taken corrective action and has reviewed its procedures to ensure full compliance in the future.