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€180,000 spent on hotels for Galway City Council meetings


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

€180,000 spent on hotels for Galway City Council meetings €180,000 spent on hotels for Galway City Council meetings

From the Galway City Tribune –  decision on whether City Council meetings should return to the purpose-built chamber in City Hall has been deferred again amid controversy over the cost to the public purse of room hire and technology in hotels.

It emerged at a meeting held in the Galmont Hotel last week that more €180,000 was spent on City Council meetings held outside of College Road since Covid-19.

In 2020, the cost of meetings was €30,668; it was €45,738 in 2021; €77,334 in 2022; and some €22,632 in the first five months of 2023.

The costs included €155,698 on “audio visual” technology to facilitate online Zoom meetings and hybrid meetings at Leisureland and various private hotels in 2020-23. The costs also include room hire and refreshments.

The Council report said the total cost of host meetings, from 2018-2023 was €187,112. This, according to the report, worked out at €1,816 on average per meeting, of which there were 103 during that period.

The report was supplied to councillors following a request by Cllr Alan Cheevers.

His Fianna Fáil colleague, Cllr John Connolly at the meeting said including costs from 2018 (€1,109) and 2019 (€5,343) was disingenuous.

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He said Cllr Cheevers never sought pre-Covid meetings’ costs and he suggested they were included in the report to lower the average cost per meeting.

The reality was the average cost per meeting in 2022 was €3,550 and it was almost €3,000 in 2021.

Now was the time to get back to the City Hall chamber, said Cllr Connolly.

In a Notice of Motion, he proposed the Council “make members and visitors aware of any risk that pertains to attending meetings within the chamber and that a waiver form be signed for members expressing their satisfaction to attend in that environment”.

Meetings would remain hybrid, and people could continue to attend remotely, Cllr Connolly said.

Cllr Cheevers said the stock response to requests for funding was “the till is closed”, but the local authority was spending thousands to host Council meetings.

Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) said she consulted colleagues all over the country, in 30 local authorities, who cannot understand that councillors have not returned to the chamber in Galway.

“They’re back in their Council chambers. It’s a bit of a nonsense,” she said.

Cllr Peter Keane (FF) said the Council should waste no more public money on commissioning reports on air conditioning. He said the waiver proposal was pragmatic, and people could continue to attend remotely.

Cllr Noel Larkin (Ind) said Covid-19 was still circulating, and the Council had a duty of care to staff. “If there’s a risk, that risk has to be mitigated,” he said. He feared the Council could be liable if attendees caught Covid in the chamber.

Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said she was all for value for money in public expenditure but she wanted assurances on health and safety. The previous Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, was “very strong on safety of staff”, and had advised against returning to the chamber.

Acting Chief Executive, Patricia Philbin said the Council was still awaiting a report assessing the risk of meeting in the chamber.

Director of Services, Patrick Greene, said the report was due back within a week, and after management had considered it, it would be forwarded to elected members.

It was agreed, following a vote, to defer the decision on whether to return to the chamber until August, when the Council’s procedures committee can consider the matter.

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