There will be free parking across Galway towns in the run up to Christmas – but not to the extent that some members of the County Council would like.
Free parking will apply to Athenry, Ballinasloe, Cleggan, Clifden, Gort, Loughrea and Tuam on the first three Saturdays in December and in the week leading up to Christmas.
There was a proposal that the free parking apply every day from the beginning of December right up to Christmas – but members of Galway County Council were told that this would cost €30,000 in lost revenue.
However, Cllr Gerry Finnerty from Gort said that the opening of the new motorway was having a serious impact on the South Galway town and he believed that every effort should be made to help the local businesses.
Several councillors supported his proposal but others disagreed by saying that the Council’s coffers could not take another hit. It was stated that there was already a shortfall of almost €1.5 million compared to last year and a further loss was not sustainable.
The matter went to a vote amongst the 27 councillors present and it ended up tied 13-13 with Cllr Jimmy McClearn abstaining. It was then down to Mayor Cllr Eileen Mannion to decide what should happen as she had the casting vote.
She said that she would go with her earlier decision by voting against the proposal of Cllr Gerry Finnerty to allow free parking each day. She said that this would have resulted in towns being clogged up with all day parking.
It was proposed by Director of Services Michael Timmins that there would be free parking on the Saturdays of December 2, 9 and 16 and on the week from Monday, December 18 to Saturday, December 24.
He explained that this would cost the Council around €5,000 in lost revenue whereas the other proposal would cost €30,000.
Cllr Finnerty said that paid parking was an issue in Gort and the local businesses needed every assistance they could get and that was why he was proposing free parking every day up to Christmas.
The Fianna Fail councillor wanted to know if there was evidence to substantiate the €30,000 figure that was mentioned. He added that it was not substantial and would be a boost to the local businesses.
Cllr James Charity said that the income from commercial rates was down by €3.5 million and this was mainly due to businesses shutting up shop. He said that the Council should be doing everything to help businesses.
But Oughterard’s Cllr Tom Welby was vehemently opposed to the proposal as he said that the Council’s finances were in a critical state and a situation of almost a month of free parking was not acceptable.
“If we agree to this proposal then something else will have to lose out. We cannot be Santa Claus all of the time,” Cllr Welby added.
Cllr Pete Roche of Fine Gael agreed and said that continuous free parking would result in people just parking their cars for the day and that this would certainly not be good for business.
“We introduced similar free parking a number of years back and I don’t recall the business community jumping for joy. It can cause more problems than it would solve and the parking would be a free-for-all,” Cllr Roche said.
On the Fianna Fail side Cllr Shane Donnellan said that it would be of benefit to the small retailers in the town centres like Loughrea while Cllr Donal Burke said that it would be a help to Ballinasloe and certainly in view of the town enhancement works that are to take place next year with the ensuing disruption.