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Clerical error costs Galway City Council half a million euro

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EXCLUSIVE 

Red-faced City Council officials have had to write off a debt of almost €500,000 because of a clerical error, the Galway City Tribune can exclusively reveal.

The embarrassing and costly ‘typo’ was included in a grant of planning permission for a residential development in Doughiska, which meant that development levies (which at that time, had to be paid by the builder before a home was sold) did not need to be paid on nearly 100 homes.

A condition of planning permission was that the levies were to be paid in respect of each apartment . . . failing to include the houses, which formed the bulk of the Fionnuisce development.

The Council had brought High Court action against Harrmack Developments (which has subsequently gone into liquidation) to recover almost €470,000 which they claimed was owed – the developers indicated they would be “strenuously defending” the action.

The mistake was first uncovered in an extensive investigation by this newspaper in July 2010. However, it has now come to light that the Council dropped the action earlier this year following advice from their legal team, and has formally “written off” the debt of €467,389.

Solicitors warned the Council that there would be “significant” High Court fees incurred and that the wording was “incorrect” on the planning permission. The Statute of Limitations had also expired – planning was granted in 2000.

City Councillor Frank Fahy (Fine Gael) said he is “gobsmacked” by the litany of errors made by the local authority.

“I’m gobsmacked that it could be just written off like that. We (councillors) were told absolutely nothing about this. The only reason any of us were ever aware of it was because of the investigation in the Galway City Tribune a few years ago.

“We weren’t told the debt had been written off, it was just swept under the carpet. What else is being written off that we don’t know about? I will be looking for a detailed report from the City Manager as to what exactly happened, and for a full list of what has been written off by the Council,” said Cllr Fahy.

For more details on this story, see today’s Galway City Tribune

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
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

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
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

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
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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