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Galway City Council ‘fleeced’ by private contractors


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway City Council ‘fleeced’ by private contractors

Galway City councillors have expressed concern that local authorities are being “fleeced” by contractors bidding for public contracts, as prices spiral upwards.

These comments were made as members of Galway City Council unanimously backed a €121 million budget for 2024 – an increase of more than €8 million on the local authority’s 2023 funding.

But despite its expanded coffers, dismay was expressed that an announcement from Government of €1.5 million in additional funding was merely a “three card trick” as inflationary supports provided for this year have been withdrawn for 2024.

And while investment in a series of active travel measures and new staff at City Hall were welcomed, some disquiet was raised about increased costs across the board, beyond expected inflation.

Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab) said the City Council was being “ripped off by a lot of suppliers” in the public tendering process – being charged more than would be the case in the private sector.

“I can’t get over the cost of everything increasing by 30% in the last few years for local government.

“The tendering process we have is all above board, but we are an easy target for some of our suppliers,” he said.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) concurred and said the Council needed to be “more clever in how we do business”.

Director of Finance, Helen Kilroy, said City Hall was examining the tendering process and continued to look for “areas councillors think we are being overquoted”.

“We are doing an open call, usually, so anybody can come in and quote,” she said.

Meanwhile, the ruling pact on the City Council – made up of Fine Gael, Labour, the Greens, and Independents – received the backing of all 18 councillors for amendments to the draft budget amounting to €495,000.

To achieve this, cuts were made in a number of areas including the retrofitting of some municipal buildings, planning control and staffing.

The half-a-million euro was redirected to various community-based initiatives, minor infrastructure projects and arts groups.

Ms Kilroy told the annual budget meeting last week that there was an expected shortfall of €7 million in the Council’s finances earlier this year, as was stated to councillors when a 15% increase in Local Property Tax was sought and rejected.

While some projects had to be limited as a result, a lower-than-expected inflation rate had reduced financial pressure.

“Given the level of new asks [for investment], we had to balance those with inflation. We couldn’t facilitate all of those asks and had to remove some.

“We have revised the rate of inflation and taken back some of the energy inflation that hasn’t transpired as high as previously thought,” she said.

There had been an increase of €1.5 million in Government baseline funding, said Ms Kilroy, but it was noted in the budget that this was the lowest baseline of any local authority in the State.

“This increase will be countered with no central government support grant for energy inflation to the local authority in 2024 – €1.5 million was noted in Budget 2023”.

Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) said the Government was “giving with one hand and taking with another”.

“This is something, I think, for Government [party] councillors to take up – they’re giving the wrong impression by saying they’re giving us €1.5 million but not fulfilling another grant that was there previously,” he said.

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