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Budget records €10m boost to City Council coffers



Galway City Council’s draft budget will show an increased purse of almost €10 million when it is presented to councillors this afternoon – with housing and planning set to get the biggest boost.

The budget, which has a total forecasted spend just shy of €88 million, leaves rates and Local Property Tax untouched – while funding for housing will be matched by a parallel income provision from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

In his budget report, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, says that Budget 2019 will continue to make provision to “maintain existing services to a high standard” – adding that matched funding for housing will allow the Council to fund and staff new projects in the city.

“The expansion of our responsibilities in areas such as climate change, tourism, economic development, recreation and amenity, and data protection are some of the areas that will be covered.

“Provisions are also included relating to the Local Elections in 2019 and other related and associated costs,” he adds.

Other areas due to get a cash injection include the progression of the Galway Transport Strategy and Galway City Centre Traffic Management plan, flood risk assessment and management, expansion of the museum and improvements to the canal network – as well as a €155,000 for city heritage sites.

Just over €27 million is allocated to housing and building, with a further €7 million for development management, which incorporates planning.

Income from rents and parking is forecasted to increase, while burying a loved one could be about to get a lot more expensive, with the Council Executive seeking the approval of councillors to increase plot prices by 10 per cent – a move they estimate would generate €30,000.

Retrofitting of the City Council’s housing stock will enter Phase 2 in 2019, with a Department grant of €500,000 ringfenced to carry out external insulation, internal dry lining and replacement windows and doors for suitable properties among the Council’s over 2,300 units.

The report contains a stark warning about the local authority’s future finances – with Mr McGrath advising that additional funds will have to be raised from 2020 onwards.

“It will be extremely difficult in 2020 and in succeeding years to address the city’s growing financial needs without generating future additional growth in income,” he states.

Budget 2019 makes way for the recruitment of additional staff among the Council’s outdoor staff in roads and parks – with provision made for the replacement of a number of “critical outdoor and indoor posts”.

The list of areas attracting new expenditure includes: river walk and pedestrian bridge repair works (€50,000); event support for Galway 2020 (€400,000); a new entrance at Castle Park (€68,000); restoration of Chapel at Bohermore Cemetery (€23,000); playground equipment replacement (€110,000); a contribution towards the development of Woodquay Park (€15,000); and a grant towards an Amenity Walkway at Ballyloughane (€10,000).

Expenditure on homeless services will increase dramatically by €2.7 million – an increase that will be fully funded by the Department.

Funding for lifeguards at city beaches is also on the rise, with an increase of €56,000 bringing the total projected spend for 2019 to €196,000. This will enable the Council to extend the service period.

Pensions and gratuities are also up by €337,000 to €3.3 million – in anticipation of potential departures as a result of Local Elections in 2019.

Elsewhere, funding has been maintained for the Christmas Park and Ride at Ballybrit (€90,000), continuing Green Leaf environmental projects (€68,000) and the operation of civic buildings including the museum, the Town Hall Theatre and Leisureland (€1.3 million).

Budgeting remains a reserved function of councillors and so the final say on how monies are allocated will be had by local representatives at today’s meeting.


Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024



Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.

Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.

The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.

Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.

The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.

Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.

One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.

Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.

In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.

If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.

Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?

Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.

According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.

The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.

While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.

This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.

In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Galway 2020 paid €110,000 for PR while cutting spends on arts events



From this week’s City Tribune – Galway 2020’s bank account statements for five months of 2020 reveal thousands of euro were spent on public relations firms and media advertising when its cultural programme was being cut and ‘revised’ during the upheaval at the onset of Covid-19.

The AIB statements date from April to September of 2020, when Covid-19 had seriously curtailed cultural activities of Galway 2020, the company behind the city and county’s European Capital of Culture. They show more than €110,000 was paid to Dublin-based public relations firm Q4 PR, in three separate payments in April, May and June of 2020.

Thousands more were paid to other public relations firms, radio stations and, to a lesser extent, newspapers.

In March of that year, Galway 2020 announced it was reviewing its programme of events due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Government after a global pandemic was declared, curtailing all events.

On April 7, it confirmed it was laying off staff and had ended its agreement with Helen Marriage and Artichoke which was providing creative direction.

Later that month, it issued statements to say it was exploring a ‘re-imagined’ programme of events to take place at the end of 2020 and 2021.

Although the amounts paid to media and PR companies other than Q4 PR are relatively small, compared with expenditure on other headings, the payments suggest the importance Galway 2020 placed on image and public perception around that time.

The bank statements were released to the Galway City Tribune following a protracted Freedom of Information request and after an appeal to the Office of Information Commissioner.

Many of the payees in the bank statements were redacted but the names of several PR and media organisations are listed as having been paid by Galway 2020.

This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article with details of the spending, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also coverage of this week’s rebranding and new vision of Galway 2020. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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