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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors do not scrutinise 90% of Chief Executive’s reports

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

All 18 city councillors were circulated with a report from Brendan McGrath on Friday, March 5.

‘Turascáil an Phriomhfheidhmeannaigh Márta’ or the Chief Executive’s Report for March was a 65-page document. It was supposed to be dealt with at the ordinary meeting of Galway City Council on March 8.

It wasn’t. Nor was it dealt with at the March 22 meeting. And it wasn’t dealt with at the Council’s April meetings, either.

The March and April meetings’ minutes will record that it was “not considered”. It will disappear from future agendas, never to see the light of day.

Who cares? Well, you should. It’s your report; your taxes funded it.

The CE is required by the Local Government Act to prepare a monthly report.

It’s a mine of information. From financial figures, to updates on projects, and an overview of the activities of and services provided by the City Council, the CE’s report is usually comprehensive.

It does contain Council spin. And its authors, the CE and his colleagues who supply the information, certainly view the world from City Hall-tinted glasses. Perhaps that’s to be expected; there are enough knockers of Galway City Council without the CE doing it too.

What’s supposed to happen is this. The CE prepares a report. It’s forwarded to elected members days before the Ordinary Monthly Meeting of the Council. It’s discussed at the meeting, and councillors can question and challenge the CE on its contents.

Media present at meetings relay the contents of the CE’s report to the public, and give a synopsis of the discussion.

It’s how local democracy works. It sounds very simple. And yet, well, it’s not. Because that is not what actually happens.

What actually happens is the manager prepares a report every month. He gives it to councillors days before it’s an agenda item at their monthly meeting. They don’t get round to discussing it. It stays on the agenda for the following meeting, when it’s not considered again. It drops off the agenda after two meetings, to be replaced by a more up-to-date monthly report that invariably is ignored too.

What happened in March 2021 was not an exception. February and March 2020 reports – both “not considered”.

The CE reports for April, May and June were “deferred”. July and September reports were “noted” but not discussed.

Reports for November, December, January, February, March and now April were also “not considered”. The CE’s report was considered at the October meeting. That’s once in the past 14 months the CE was questioned on the contents of his reports.

When asked by this newspaper to release March’s report, the CE said ‘no’. He said the reports are prepared for consideration by elected members at Council meetings.

“They are therefore not ‘published’ and in the public domain until the point at which they have been considered and debated.

“The holding back of the CE’s Monthly Report or any other report from the media or others is . . . recognition of the mandate of the elected council and the responsibility of the Executive to uphold that mandate,” he said.

Brendan McGrath’s regard for councillors’ mandate is quite touching. But when less than 10% of CE’s reports are made public, and subject to accountability and scrutiny, it makes a mockery of the democratic principles he claims to uphold.

(Photo: In the past 14 months, councillors questioned Chief Executive Brendan McGrath on the content of his monthly report just once).
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

CITY TRIBUNE

Outdoor dining plans unveiled for Galway City

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A new plan to temporarily pedestrianise city streets to create more space for outdoor dining this summer was published this week.

Galway City Council has said it is planning to close six streets for four months to boost the hospitality sector and attract more custom ‘back the West’ and to Woodquay.

It has also signalled smaller changes for Salthill and around Eyre Square.

“We’re looking to support businesses and people getting back to work. This is an opportunity for us to explore outdoor dining and we’re looking to trial these public realm initiatives,” Ruairí Lehmann, the City Council’s Tourism Officer told the Galway City Tribune.

“There is an appetite for this; the indications we have from Government is it is going to be an outdoor summer and these proposals will support that,” he added.

Chairperson of Galway Branch of VFI, Johnny Duggan of Taylor’s Bar on Dominick Street, said the changes would be very positive and boost hospitality businesses in all areas.

Already, he said as many as 30 businesses have applied for licences to trade outside in the area known as the Westend.

The local authority wants to close to traffic The Small Crane and Raven Terrace 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from June 7 until September 30. Car parking spaces will be removed from Small Crane and one lane of traffic would be kept open, one-way. A decision on which side is still under review.

The Council intends to make Dominick Street Lower (Galway Arms to Monroe’s) a single-lane one-way traffic street to facilitate additional on-street dining. It’s understood this has hasn’t yet got the backing of taxi drivers who have concerns about access to and from the Bridge Street rank but alternative taxi space may be offered at another location in the Westend to assuage those fears.

The Council has signalled its intention to close Dominick Street Upper and William Street West from Small Crane to Munster Avenue, at night only, between 6pm and 11pm, from Monday June 7 until Thursday September 30.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and for full details of the proposals for the city centre and Salthill, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief backs Salthill tidal pools proposal

Stephen Corrigan

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Image Courtesy of Superfly Ireland

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Council is to consider including a specific objective to restore the tidal pools in Salthill in the new City Development Plan – with around one-fifth of the submissions made in a public consultation backing this ‘no-brainer’ proposal.

In a report to councillors on submissions received, Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said consideration of the proposal would be based on technical feasibility, funding, staff resources, climate change considerations and environmental factors.

“A large number of submissions were received requesting the restoration of the tidal pools in Salthill as a year-round public amenity and recreation facility accessible to all. The restoration of this facility would be a huge asset to the city and complement the existing facilities that are available at Salthill,” Mr McGrath states in the document seen by the Galway City Tribune.

Support for the reviving of the Ladies’ Beach facility grew legs after an online petition attracted over 4,500 signatures.

Up to 100 of the 518 submissions made to the Council’s pre-draft consultation supported reopening the pools that have been out of action since the late 1970s.

(Photo: How the pools might look. Image Courtesy of Superfly Ireland)
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

GMIT in €9m bid for Galwegians’ Glenina grounds

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – GMIT has put in an offer – rumoured to be in the region of €9million – for the purchase of Galwegians RFC’s grounds at Glenina, the Galway City Tribune understands.

The offer will be presented for a vote at a Special General Meeting of club members set to take place on May 27.

The land at Crowley Park, located just two minutes’ walk from GMIT, had been earmarked for housing by property developer Neil Armstrong, and is zoned residential. However, this deal fell through.

A GMIT spokesperson told the Galway City Tribune they were “not yet in a position to comment”, while a spokesperson for Galwegians declined to comment.

It is understood that staff at GMIT were informed by the institution’s Vice President of Finance at a meeting this week that the ‘deal was done’ and that they awaited the rugby club’s signing off at its members’ meeting later in the month.

The sale would clear the way for the club to proceed with plans to develop a 22-acre site at Boleynasruhaun, Oranswell, where it is expected to make a second planning application after the County Council raised concerns over the scale of the development proposed initially.
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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