Galway County Council workers fear that essential services such as pothole repairs will be drastically cut back because of staff layoffs – which they believe are part of a ‘background’ plan for the local authority’s merger with the City Council.
Tomorrow (Friday), the already-stretched department which looks after road maintenance across the county will lose a further five drivers.
Staff argue road maintenance will be down to a skeleton service. They have the equipment – including two brand new ‘171’ trucks paid for and sitting in a yard in the midlands awaiting collection – but do not have the driver-operators.
Acting Chief Executive of the County Council, Kevin Kelly, confirmed to the Connacht Tribune this week that a series of meetings have taken place of the review group on the proposed amalgamation of the two local authorities.
However, he insisted there is “absolutely no connection whatsoever” between the layoffs and the work of the review group.
A number of staff who spoke to this newspaper over the past week said morale amongst workers is at a new low, as temporary staff are being laid off and not replaced – some after several years of service on ‘rolling’ contracts.
A Council source said: “The road maintenance ‘team’ will be down to six or seven drivers covering the entire county of Galway from Claddaghduff to Portumna. A skeleton service.”
Independent county councillor Tom Welby said the local authority is in a ‘state of paralysis’ because of the findings of last October’s report from the Galway Local Government Review Committee which recommended the merger of the City and County Councils.
Cllr Welby said: “Temporary staff would always have been made aware before the end of their contract that they would be taken on again. But there is no news this time. There is a very real fear that people are being let go and will not be replaced because of the proposed merger with the city, and apparently, the City Council has been making temporary staff permanent. People see that as the city getting all their ducks in a row.
“Staff will already tell you that they’re overloaded, and now more workers will be let go,” said Cllr Welby.
A Council source said: “These are all truck and machinery drivers. Some of these would be considered senior staff, with a few years of service, albeit broken service because of rolling contacts.
“In the past two years, the number of drivers will have gone from 14 to six after these workers are gone. Next Monday, if an area of the county wants a truck to fill potholes, there won’t be enough drivers, so a private contractor will have to be paid to come in.
Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly
The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.
People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.
The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.
“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.
“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.
They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.
Travel and transport
You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:
- to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
- to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
- for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
- for farming purposes, food production or care of animals
You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.
Public and private transport
You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.
Education and childcare
The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:
- education and childcare
- outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
- Economic activity and work
- Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.
Cafes and restaurants
- All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
- Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.
- All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.
- Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.
Cultural and religious
- All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
- Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
- Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.
No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:
- non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
- professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
- inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors
Residential and healthcare facilities
*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).
Relocation homebuyers head to the west
The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.
Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.
The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.
But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.
“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.
The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.
Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.
“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.
Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.
Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears
Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.
First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.
“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.
“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.
Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.
However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.