County Galway budget is passed – but services will still be hit
From this week's Galway City Tribune
Author: Declan Tierney
~ 3 minutes read
From this week's Galway City Tribune
To have a budget of €173 million to spend next year might seem, on the face of it, an embarrassment of riches – but when it comes to a county the size of Galway, it will fall well short of what is required to adequately fund the services required.
The members of Galway County Council were presented with the local authority’s budget for 2024 and, while it is an increase of €15 million on previous years, it is still not sufficient when it comes to roads and housing (in particular) and various other services provided by the local authority.
And it is not surprising that various government departments came under fire from elected members, and indeed officials, for not providing the sufficient funding required to manage a county of this magnitude.
After being presented with the details of the budget for next year by Head of Finance Katie O’Connor, the councillors were provided with an outline of where the funding will be spent – again with roads maintenance and housing being the biggest drains on the Council’s budget given the size of the county.
It had earlier been explained by Chief Executive Liam Conneally that 77% of the County Council’s population live outside Galway’s five main towns and that this put pressure on the provision of essential services.
However, the budget for 2024 was proposed by Cllr Joe Byrne (FG) who said that, despite the need for additional funding, it was an ambitious plan for the county.
The Kinvara councillor, who is standing back from politics come next year’s local elections, said that the increase in revenue spending of €15m over and above the 2023 figure was most welcome.
Cllr Byrne said that it confirms additional spending in all departments, including staff increases, general operatives on the ground and an increase of €6.5 million in housing including almost €1 million in maintenance of local authority dwellings and estate management.
There is also a committed additional funding towards planning enforcement.
Cllr Byrne stated that the public and councillors must not just look at the revenue budget in isolation and pointed out to the ambitious capital funding to be spent in 2024, which will include €144 million for the delivery of over 340 local authority houses, through direct build, acquisitions and through Approved Housing Bodies.
“Our towns and villages will see spending of over €10 million through town and village Renewal project and town centre funding, including the public realm project in Gort.”
These funds are facilitated by matched funding of 20% in the Council’s revenue budget.
Other notable capital projects include the completion of the Moycullen Bypass, Galway to Clifden Greenway near Recess and continued funding for the Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Scheme.
Fire stations at Athenry and Loughrea are included along with the Gort Civic Amenity Site at a cost of €600,000.
A total of €250,000 is ringfenced for acquisition of additional burial ground lands as well as master planning for the Galway Airport Site.
Cllr Byrne stated that when one adds revenue to capital, it’s a budget of around €350 million, which he described as a huge economic boost for the people of Galway.
He welcomed the fact that the Chief Executive Mr Conneally confirmed his intention to keep pressing the Department of Finance for additional funding.
The budget, which was seconded by Cllr Tom Welby (Ind) was passed with no amendments proposed.
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