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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway 2020: No closure on opening ceremony costs saga

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Senator Pauline O'Reilly who is putting pressure on her Green Party colleague, Minister Catherine Martin, to seek transparency on costs from 2020.

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column by Dara Bradley

Galway 2020, the company set up to deliver the European Capital of Culture this year, advised officials in the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht in February that costs associated with its aborted opening ceremony in Claddagh “were still being assessed”.

At a meeting with officials, minutes of which were released under Freedom of Information (FOI), “it was noted that much of the cost and activity” relating to the opening ceremony that was cancelled due to Storm Ciara, “were realised, including county events and community engagement over a sustained period”.

Interestingly, even though the costs were “realised” (that is, spent), it wasn’t recorded in the minutes how much Galway 2020 actually spent on the abandoned ceremony.

Fast forward five months to July, and Patricia Philbin, CEO of Galway 2020, who was at that February meeting with Department officials, was again asked about the opening ceremony costs.

This time it was City Councillors probing but the response was similar.

Galway 2020 at a meeting of Galway City Council, could not clarify a breakdown of the total €2.3 million costs to the organisation – and by extension the taxpayer – of the cancelled opening ceremony that was due to go ahead in The Swamp in the Claddagh.

An insurance claim is pending, but surely the public has a right to know how exactly its money has been spent?

How much did the stage cost, for example? Does the final outlay include travel and accommodation costs for VIPs guests such as 10 EU Ambassadors to Ireland who were due to attend? Were the MCs and performers, who were booked months in advance, paid retainers? And so on and so on.

Galway Senators Pauline O’Reilly (Greens) and Ollie Crowe (FF) have called for a full breakdown of how Galway 2020 has spent a total €18m to date. Not another cent of public money should be handed over, until that breakdown is provided.
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
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

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
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

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
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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