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CITY TRIBUNE

Budget records €10m boost to City Council coffers

Stephen Corrigan

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call in the clampers to sort problem parking

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in a Salthill estate have become tired of illegal parking outside their homes – and hired private clampers as a deterrent.

People living in Seamount off Threadneedle Road near Blackrock said they have been plagued by extra traffic and vehicles parking outside their homes, blocking access, during the latest Covid lockdown.

They said that since Galway City Council closed off the Prom to car parking, and closed the two public carparks, the cars have just migrated to Threadneedle Road and their estate.

Seamount is a private estate and the road has not been taken in charge by the Council. The residents have clubbed together and hired a clamping company, which will erect signs in the coming days and begin clamping illegally parked cars from next week.

Residents said they are also concerned that cars parked on Threadneedle Road are making it more difficult for buses to pass, and cause congestion.

A residents’ spokesperson said: “Since the lockdown, they closed off the Prom and closed off Salthill car park but people are still using the Prom and swimming off Blackrock. I have huge admiration for the swimmers, I do it myself when it’s warmer. But what’s happening is they park on both sides of Threadneedle Road, because there’re no yellow lines on either side of it and it’s not wide enough for cars to be parked either side of it, so buses are getting stuck.”
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG President’s upset at Covid breaches on campus

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – “I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flouted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

These are the words of an angry and frustrated healthcare worker at University Hospital Galway in a message sent to the head of NUIG.

President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh told students and staff at the university this week that he found it “deeply frustrating” that some students were flouting public health guidelines.

The HSE has confirmed that there were at least 441 cases of Covid in the city’s 18-24 age group – which has affected 224 households – in the past three weeks.

“Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

“I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said.

The head of the university shared the message in an email to students and staff this week, adding that students had expressed frustration that study spaces were not open on campus and at the challenges posed by the constricted spaces in which they study.

NUIG confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it had imposed sanctions on a number of students in relation to Covid breaches, while there have been none at GMIT.
This is a brief preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Principals band together for safer cycling infrastructure

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A total of 28 Galway City school principals have signed an open letter to the Minister for Transport and local councillors highlighting the need for safer cycling infrastructure around schools, to encourage students and staff to switch to bikes.

The push by Government to cycle or walk where possible during the pandemic has its limitations in a city where cycle lanes are rare and parents are too afraid to let their children cycle on narrow roads often choked with traffic.

A group of cycling enthusiasts in city schools has been campaigning to encourage the school community to engage with Galway City Council’s public consultation process for the next development plan which will have a key role in deciding whether cycling lanes or off-road cycle routes become a reality.

The first stage of the initial consultation process for the ‘City Development Plan 2023-2029, Your City, Your Future’ closes today (Friday). But the process will continue for two more years with more consultation encouraged once the draft plan is published.

This week a letter from 28 principals sent to councillors called for support for the provision of better cycle infrastructure in and around all schools. It has also been sent to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Galway West TD and Minister of State at Cabinet, Hildegarde Naughton.

“It is our view that existing road infrastructure around schools can be unsafe for children, teachers, and families who wish to cycle to school and we would like to encourage the development safe cycling routes in the future,” the letter states.

Principal of Coláiste na Coiribe, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, said it was important for the school community to get involved with the public consultation.

(Photo: Last year, the Council introduced a ‘School Streets’ pilot scheme at Scoil Iognáid, which bans cans during certain times, encouraging parents and children to walk or cycle. Schools now want proper cycling infrastructure put in place).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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