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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors’ Christmas cheer after vote to top up expenses

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column by Dara Bradley

It’s only the Halloween Bank Holiday weekend but there was a certain amount of Christmas cheer evident at City Hall last Monday.
A vote was unanimously passed to give city businesses a grant of €150,000 to put on “an iconic festive light and colour experience” this December.

The proposal includes new decorations, lights and projections onto well-known buildings, and is all part of traders’ ambitious plans to make Galway the “Christmas Capital of Ireland”.
And city councillors were giddy with excitement to get the good news out there, immediately.
Like children running to their parents’ bedroom on Christmas morning to tell them what Daidí na Nollag had left under the tree, several elected members took to social media to inform followers how instrumental they were in safeguarding the grant. Insecure much?
Meanwhile, we suspect the cause of the jovial spirits at Monday’s City Council meeting had more to do with councillors voting to top-up their allowance and expense budget.
Funnily enough, not one of them rushed to Facebook and Twitter to inform your good selves about this early Christmas present they gifted themselves.
Indeed, Cllr Mike Crowe (FF), with tongue firmly in cheek, said what the rest of his colleagues were thinking – he joked to Chief Executive Brendan McGrath that they would prefer not to discuss the top-up “until the press go!”
So, here’s what they don’t want you to know. Under the current rules, each councillor has an annual budget of €3,722.50 for conferences, seminars and approved training. That breaks down as €3,022 for training, plus €700 for attendance at conferences and events.
Not all members use this. Some wish to exceed it. Any councillor who wants to exceed the allocation, may request to take a portion of another councillor’s allocation. The problem was, many councillors who don’t use it, are unwilling to give the extra lolly to their rivals.
On Monday, they voted to increase the €3,722.50 to €4,500 per councillor per year. A nice round figure, you’ll agree. And an increase of €777.50 or 21%. Not bad if you can get it.
They justified this by arguing there is “generally unused monies” leftover in the overall conference/seminar/training budget.
But as Cllr Collette Connolly (Ind) pointed out, if all 18 elected members did use their full allocation, then the Council would have to eat into its budget for other services to cover the overrun.
The vote to increase allowances by 21% simply rubberstamped a report from the Council’s procedure’s committee. The committee surprise, surprise, is made up of councillors. Have they ever recommended a cut to allowances?
Don’t be ridiculous – turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
Money for jam
Not content with increasing the yearly individual budget for training, seminars and conferences by 21% to €4,500, city councillors also agreed to pay themselves an additional €1,000.
This extra stipend is an allowance payable for membership of ‘Area Committees’.
Chief Executive of the City Council Brendan McGrath said it will only be paid “once a meeting has taken place in the areas”.
And so, councillors resolved on Monday to meet in their areas – City West, City Central and City East – ASAP.
We all look forward to reading the minutes of those “area meetings” that will cost ratepayers/taxpayers an additional €18,000 per annum.
The boom is back, and it’s getting boomier!

For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune 

CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport

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From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Work expected to start on Galway City cycleways next summer

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first six projects in the city’s major new cycle network are expected to begin construction by next June.

In an update on developments that are in train to improve the lot of cyclists, councillors at this week’s local authority meeting were told that the Martin Roundabout (near the Galway Clinic) would next be changed to a junction and the BusConnects, involving priority bus lanes from Moneenageisha to University Hospital Galway, were advancing.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved a raised cycle lane north of Railway Bridge on Doughiska Road South and for a shared street south of the bridge.

Eglinton Canal will turn into a shared cycle and pedestrian path. Four weeks of public consultation on both of these is set to begin in October, with the projects set to go to detailed design and tender following final NTA approval.

Ballybane, Castlepark and Bóthar Stiofáin Roads will also go to public consultation for “raised adjacent cycle schemes” a month after that.

The six projects are expected to begin construction by the end of June or early July next year.

Millars Lane is currently in preliminary design stage after clearing works were carried out last November.

Options are being examined and parking survey prepared for Threadneedle, Bishop O’Donnell, Dr Mannix, Devon Park, Salthill Road Upper and Lower Roads with input and designs from the Parkmore Strategic Framework awaited for the Monivea and Doughiska North Roads.

Active Travel Schemes had been approved in principle by the NTA for Ballyloughane and Clybaun South Roads, involving pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, signalisation of junctions and the integration of safe school routes.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) noted that the first quarter of 2021 was when some of these projects were to go to construction, according to a previous timetable.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Pamela’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Racecourse Park and Ride a non-runner for Christmas in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The lack of a park and ride service this Christmas will drive shoppers out of town at a time when businesses are struggling to recover from months in lockdown, the Mayor has warned.

This is after it was revealed that the City Council has failed to secure an alternative location for the service – with its usual base at Galway Racecourse out of action due to the ongoing vaccination programme.

The service, which had previously operated for the three-week period in the run up to Christmas, enabled motorists to park their cars in Ballybrit and take a return trip by bus to town at a cost of just €2 – taking hundreds of cars out of the city centre.

The Mayor, Cllr Colette Connolly, said it was ‘completely ludicrous’ that it would not be in operation this year, in a city that was already gridlocked with car traffic.

“I think that it is a retrograde step not to proceed with the Christmas Park and Ride because we know what will happen – we’ve seen before what happens at the Corrib Centre around Christmas where traffic backs up and people get stuck in the car park,” said the Mayor.

This would result in shoppers from outside the city avoiding coming in, while others would go to other towns and cities to avoid traffic misery.

“They will go to Limerick or to Dublin, which is only two-and-a-half hours away. They will go to Athlone, because they may as well go there, rather than spend two hours sitting in traffic on Lough Atalia,” added the Independent councillor.

In Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath’s report to councillors, it is stated that “it is looking unlikely that Galway City Council will be able to run the Christmas Park and Ride in 2021”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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