A huge number of people have been in touch about the closure of the Park Road Recycling Facility.
Last Thursday a special meeting of the Council was held to discuss this issue. The Council Executive gave a presentation about the facility, and the reasons for closure.
The Director of Services and his staff leant heavily on the decision being due to health and safety reasons. There was an allusion to a report prepared in October 2018 which called for the urgent need to close the facility on H&S grounds. However, we were told that we could not see that report because it was relevant in an ongoing legal case. In any case, we were told that the relevant parts of the report were contained in the presentation given to us at this meeting.
What was given to us falls well short of the standard we should expect to justify what the Director himself cites as a ‘serious loss of service’. There was, as far as I could tell, a single slide from the October 2018 report, and that didn’t call for the closure of the facility. There were other slides (not in the October report, but prepared later at an unspecified date) which appeared to show unsafe practices. But none of this constitutes a thorough and comprehensive safety audit which necessitated the immediate closure of the facility. We simply don’t have credible evidence that health and safety risks were the main driver in the decision to close it. The subsequent 8 month wait to close the Park Road Depot only stretches credibility further.
Notwithstanding the above, the staff also didn’t appear to undertake any meaningful, formal study of mitigation of the vague and unspecified health and safety risks. Nor did they look for alternative solutions. If, as conceded by the Director, that the closure represented a serious loss of service, then clearly this should have been done. The overwhelming feeling is the decision had little to do with Health and Safety and that the staff believed it doesn’t actually constitute a serious loss of service, despite the claims to the contrary, and they were happy to close it without doing a thorough appraisal of the health and safety risks, mitigation and possible solutions.
Other aspects of this which are unsettling are the lack of consultation and the short notice given of the closure. No stakeholders were consulted insofar as we know, despite it being a serious loss of service. And the closure was then announced and hastily progressed within two weeks.
We should expect and demand a much higher standard from the executive management in its decision making. While it won’t happen overnight, I am determined to work with other councillors to build a new culture of openness and accountability in Limerick City & County Council.