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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillor claims homeless figures skewedby inclusion of Travellers

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Families waiting more than 10 years for a local authority home in Galway are being passed over because of a short-sighted Government policy, the head of Galway City Council’s Housing Policy Committee has claimed.

Councillor Declan McDonnell said that while there were many genuine cases among the dozens of people in Galway registered as homeless, a substantial number were using the system to get priority for social housing allocation.

He pointed to new figures showing that Travellers account for more than 80% of those registered as homeless in County Galway and more than 50% of the homeless in Galway City. The figures were obtained from the local authorities by Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish.

“When you consider the fact that Travellers represent just 1.5% of the population of County Galway and 2.2% of the population of Galway City, and yet they make up the majority of those classified as homeless, it doesn’t make sense.

“It’s not like fifty years ago when you had substantial numbers of Travellers living on the side of the road and there was a genuine high level of homelessness among them,” said Cllr McDonnell.

He said that the Minister for Housing had back in January promised a new scheme that would promote the availability of affordable houses.

“We were told that would be published by now, but it hasn’t come. In the meantime, the Government has instructed that priority be given to those registered as homeless in the allocation of new housing.

“All they are doing is fighting one fire, while in the background people are being caught in the middle, people who have been ten years and more on the local authority waiting list are being passed over in favour of others who have only been there for a few months.

“It’s a short-sighted policy, when we don’t have another policy in place to help people who are being caught in the middle.

“Obviously there are many families who are genuinely homeless and urgently need accommodation, but there are a substantial number of others who are ‘gaming the system’, claiming to be homeless when in reality they are not.”

Cllr McDonnell insisted that he was not looking for Travellers to be treated differently that the rest of the community. “I’m looking for equal rights here for everyone.”

He warned that the current policy would lead to the creation of unbalanced housing estates and unsustainable communities.

“We have had this in two instances elsewhere in the county, where in one case four out of seven houses were allocated to Travellers.

“We cannot repeat this mistake in the city – It is vitally important that we continue to have balanced estates in Galway. There has to be integration, certainly, but it doesn’t have to be to the detriment of everybody else.”

Cllr McDonnell said that the current situation was not the fault of the staff of the local authorities. “This the deck of cards they have been dealt, this is government policy that they have to implement.”

He said the Government needed to act quickly to help people caught in the ‘middle income trap’, those earning between €35,000 and €60,000, who would never get a mortgage and they only way they would ever have a home of their own would be to get a subsidised house.

“There are groups of such people in Galway City willing to form a co-operative to build affordable houses for those in the middle income bracket and all they need is a site.

“There are others with low incomes who work with Galway City Partnership and want to build modular timber-frame houses at a cost of about €50,000 to €60,000 each for themselves using their skill, but again they need a subsidised site.

“The Credit Union has agreed to work with Galway City Partnership and to consider loans for these people and this would also take more people off the housing waiting list, but they need a serviced site. These guys are skilled lads, between them they would build the houses themselves – the houses come in packs – and they would bring the costs down by doing it this way.

“We had dozens of homes built in a similar way in places like the Monivea Road, in Glenina Heights and Meadow Grove back in the 1970s when co-ops got land cheaply and built their own homes. This is in its infancy at the moment, but it shows that there are ideas out there that need red tape lifted,” said Cllr McDonnell.

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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