The five Strategic Policy Committees (SPCs) of Kilkenny County Council have not met once since the local elections and may not meet at all until next year, it has emerged.
SPCs are part of the backbone of local government – committees where council policy is formulated, considered and reviewed. Five local councillors were elected by their colleagues to be the chairpersons of each SPC in June, a role which brings with it an annual bonus allowance of €6,000.
The SPCs, which cover areas such as economic development, infrastructure, and housing, are supposed to meet quarterly or at least four times a year. However, Kilkenny’s new SPCs have not met even once since the local elections in May, nor has the Joint Policing Committee, which fosters communication between Gardai, the council and the public.
This would mean the various SPC chairs will have held their positions for more than seven months without ever chairing a single meeting. The five SPC cathaoirligh are Cllr Pat Millea (FF), Cllr Matt Doran (FF), Cllr John Brennan (FG), Cllr Andrew McGuinness (FF), and Cllr Maurice Shortall (Labour).
The delay is because of revised guidelines published by the Department in June which require a draft scheme to go to public consultation locally, and for a number of external nominees to be appointed to each committee. The public consultation process, which takes at least four weeks, must take place first. It must then be brought before the councillors to approve (likely at the November monthly meeting), followed by the council then seeking submissions.
After the local elections, Kilkenny County Council established new SPCs, appointing cathaoirligh in early June for a minimum of three years. Last week, a senior executive officer in Kilkenny County Council said that it could likely be January before any SPC meetings are held.
Leas-cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Patrick McKee has criticised the slow rate of progress on getting the committees up and running. The areas the SPCs govern are among those that have been highlighted as areas in crisis locally at present.
“It is a scandal that not a single SPC meeting will be held, in all likelihood, until 2015,” he said.
“Meanwhile, we have a full-blown crisis on our hands in Kilkenny with regard to issues such as housing. SPCs are specifically there to make progress on these things, and yet here we are in October and nothing is getting done.”
It’s understood the council is, however, considering holding a meeting of the Joint Policing Committee without external members.
Cllr McKee has said it is of vital importance that the JPC meets without delay, in order to foster communication between the public, councillors and the Gardai.
“The JPC hasn’t met for six months,” he said.
“Since that meeting, new drugs have become available on our street corners and issues pertaining to sulky racing and the death of horses on our public roads have hit the national headlines.”
Kilkenny has five different SPCs: SPC 1 – Economic Development, Enterprise Support and Tourism; SPC 2 – Infrastructure Policy, Transportation, Fire and Emergency Services; SPC 3 – Planning and Development Policy and Heritage; SPC 4 – Housing, Community, Arts and Culture; and SPC 5 – Environment, Water Services and Energy.