A Special Report
THE SPENDING bonanza on costly consultancy reports in Cranmore Regeneration Project has continued in the current economic downturn, at home and abroad, while its salary bundle grew by a massive 11% in the past year.
A tab of €73,039 was picked up by the State in 2011 for consultancy reports and professional fees relating to Cranmore, according to new figures released in the Dail last week
Previous figures on the Dail record showed a splurge of spending on consultancy and professional fees was a regular feature of the Cranmore Regeneration project as Ireland's economic downturn deepened.
A check by SligoToday.ie
confirms, for example, that in excess of quarter a million euro
was spent on consultancy reports alone in Cranmore between 2008 and 2010.Mounds Remain
The special category spending extended beyond consultancy, too. The former Minister for Housing, Willie Penrose, placed figures on the Dail record last year which revealed a six-figure fee, namely €115,168 total for ''technical surveys,'' was paid out in 2008/2009 in respect of mounds at the centre of the Cranmore estate.
A proposal to excavate and remove these grassy mounds then emerged in the wake of the consultancy process and technical survey......BUT this costly recommendation caused controversy and was rejected out-of-hand by local residents who wanted them retained from day one -- straight from the famed realms of ''Ripley's Believe It Or Not.''
Figures released in the Dail last week by the Minister for Housing, Jan O'Sullivan, shone a rare probing spotlight and showed how lucrative the business of mapping pathways of social inclusion and of dealing with disadvantage has become in well-heeled Sligo circles.
A total of €2.2 million was spent by the State in Cranmore Estate last year. A sum of €412,907 was spent on salaries/staff costs in 2011 -- ie 18.5% of all funding streams....or nearly one in every five euro coming into Cranmore from the State went on salaries and related staff packages. The figure of €412,907 is the single biggest parcel of expenditure revealed by Minister O'Sullivan last week.
An examination of earlier Dail records for State spending in Cranmore showed that salaries, alone, cost over one million euro in the period 2008 to 2010 - ie the same period when the Irish economy began to contract. The year 2009 saw Cranmore Regeneration salaries peak at €498,351. They dropped back to €369,042 in 2010 but rose by rose again by 11% last year.
In the 'ballpark' figures on public record it remains unclear if staff bonuses -- or performance-related bonuses -- were provided for, or sought, in any of the years outlined. The Minister was asked to provide "a breakdown of the expenditure"
and the reply simply said "Staff"
with the expenditure figure beside it. No further detail was supplied. Salary Package
The Cranmore Regeneration Project is headed by Bartley Gavin whose own total salary package in Cranmore on secondment from the local authority is close to, or in excess of, €100,000. His secondment rank in the Council's Organisational chart is equated with a Director of Services post. It is a senior grade, second only in status to County Manager, which carries an estimated salary of €150,000.
That then left in excess of €300,000 in the kitty to be disbursed in salaries and related staff packages among remaining employees affixed to the Cranmore Regeneration Project in 2011.
Staff include Project Leader Siofra Kilcullen, Staff Officer Cyril McNamara and clerical officer Sinead McGarrigle. Their team is augmented by various estate managers, named on the County Council website early today (Wednesday) as including Des McGarry, Rob Connor and Ronnie Snee. Two community wardens, Gary Kelly and Marisa Moran, complete the line-up, nine employees.New Fund
The community warden posts come to an end shortly but the Sligo LEADER Partnership Company Ltd now plans to fund two new posts, according to advertisements in local media last week. The new LEADER posts offer a fixed term to December 31st next and services will be operated by Cranmore Regeneration Project via a Service Level Agreement.
Dail records show that a total of €72,954 was spent in 2011 on two community warden posts in Cranmore. There were indications those posts would cease this month as State departments slashed budgets in the wake of the IMF bailout and there were no indications of support from the Sustainable Communities Fund, which funded the warden posts. The LEADER posts, which have a closing date this Friday, will now be offering similar salaries.
Additional grant benefits to Cranmore outlined for the Dail last week by the Minister for Housing include: €25,334 in a Tenancy Support Project and €15,000 for a Community Sports Programme. Six phone numbers are indicated on the Council's web page for the Regeneration Project and a number of vehicles are also operated full-time. One Million Write-Off
Meanwhile, figures released in the Dail last week also revealed a State grant of €17,816 to the Cranmore Community Co.Op. This shows a marked decline as against some previous recent years.
Finally, a capital sum in excess of one millon euro
was previously spent in preparing a Master Plan.
This was rejected by the Department of Environment, effectively writing off its own spending splurge in the Celtic Tiger era.
Last week's Dail figures do not appear to show any salary cost for a Liaison Officer, appointed in 2011 to assist the process of a second Master Plan. The Minister's figures make no mention either of Establishment & Administration costs -- phone, light, heating, photocopier, postage, computers etc -- for the Project offices in Cranmore.