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Concerns over €7m in unspent funding by Galway County Council

Fears have been raised that millions of euro in ‘Active Travel’ money from the National Transport Authority (NTA) is going unspent by Galway County Council.

At a meeting of the Tuam Municipal District on Monday, Cllr Andrew Reddington (pictured) said he had received figures suggesting that almost €7 million had not been spent over the past three years.

The Fine Gael councillor said the figures were obtained from the NTA by his party colleague, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, through a parliamentary question and showed that in 2021, a €1.6 million underspend was recorded; in 2022, that figure was €5.2 million.

“This is no dig at the Director of Services or the engineers working in this area,” said Cllr Reddington, who raised concerns that the money was “going back to the NTA” and that in future, Galway would only get “what we’re able to spend”.

Director of Services, Derek Pender, said it was not the case that the money had gone back to the NTA and instead, there had been a ‘rollover’ each year.

“I don’t want anyone to think we’re handing money back to the NTA,” said Mr Pender, adding that every local authority was in a similar position.

Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) was critical of Cllr Reddington for suggesting money was going back to the NTA.

“Given the very limited resources we have in this local authority, we did very well to get this money,” she said.

Cllr Joe Sheridan (FF) said he didn’t believe Cllr Reddington was “helpful” in raising the matter and asked that he withdraw his statement.

However, Cathaoirleach Colm Keaveney (FF) said “people have a right to be wrong”.

Cllr Reddington said he had asked a Dáil deputy to find out information and it had been provided by the NTA, showing that the Council had not drawn down the money.

He pointed out that the amount allocated for Galway in 2023 (€3 million) was less than was made available in previous years.

Mr Pender said Cllr Reddington was correct and said “the NTA has significantly moved the goal posts this year for Active Travel”.

“All the low hanging fruit is gone. Initially Active Travel was to get people out and active during Covid.

“They have now specified that they are moving towards plan and policy-led projects – bringing people from their place of origin, from home to their place of work or school,” said Mr Pender.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Reddington said he had sought the information as a number of projects in his area had been left unfinished.

“The Active Travel allocation in Galway was warmly welcomed by every councillor and TD in 2021 and 2022, but why isn’t anyone asking why the funding wasn’t spent?

“It was a legitimate concern of mine that public money was given to Galway County Council and has not been spent. The figures do not lie,” said Cllr Reddington.

Money had rolled over but the rules around Active Travel were changing, as confirmed by the Director of Services, and “every community in County Galway needs to know if projects will commence or are they dead in the water,” he asked.

“I can’t believe I brought this up at a meeting – legitimate information from a government body about funding that was given and drawn down by Galway County Council – and I was at one stage asked to withdraw my comments,” said Cllr Reddington.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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