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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council u-turn on operation of Christmas market

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The annual Christmas market will be run again this year by a private operator – and not Galway City Council.

City councillors last November agreed to set aside €150,000 in the 2018 budget so that the Council would take over the running of the market.

But management of the local authority have poured cold water on the idea, claiming they do not have the resources in-house to run the Continental market in Eyre Square.

In the absence of the Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, and his Deputy, Tom Connell, it was left to Acting Director of Services, Gary McMahon to break the bad news to elected members at a local authority meeting.

“Galway City Council does not have the capacity to run the market – we don’t have the staff, the resources, the equipment. We just don’t have it. It will have to be contracted out,” he said.

Councillor Mike Cubbard (Ind) was incensed with the statement and questioned what the €150,000 set aside in the 2018 budget to take over the market would now be spent on. He said: “Why didn’t the executive admit that we couldn’t manage the market from the outset?”

Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) said it was “completely unacceptable” that the Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive were not in the Chamber to answer questions from elected members.

Cllr John Walsh (FG) was one of several members who criticised the executive for presenting only an interim report on the 2017 Christmas Market.

It was May, he said, and at this stage, midway through the year, the City Council should have had a full report prepared on the last Christmas market so that they can make informed decisions about the next one.

Mayor Pearce Flannery (FG) shouldered some of the blame for the full report not being prepared yet. He said that due to commitments of the office of mayor, it hadn’t been possible for him to meet with taxi operators about how the 2017 market was for them.

Mr McMahon said the Council hadn’t yet met with other public transport representatives including Bus Éireann to get their feedback either. They will endeavour to do so in the coming weeks and the feedback from taxis and bus operators will be included in the final report to be presented to councillors at the June meeting, said Mr McMahon.

In the interim report, Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said: “The live-review feedback indicates significant concern expressed by the traders surveyed, following media reports at the time with regard to the possibility of the Council taking over the running of the Christmas market. The review also highlights that many traders said they were very unsure if they would be involved if this happened as they felt the market in its current operation was well managed and run”.

Cllr Pádraig Conneely (FG) again criticised the Christmas Market, which he said was poorly run. He said the City Council was hypocritical for allowing a beer tent to serve alcohol in the market, which was contrary to the Healthy Cities initiative, which the city had signed up to.

Cllr Conneely said there were 281 licensed premises in the city, including 34 off licences, and having a beer tent as the focal point of the market was wrong and encouraged drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said €150,000 was set aside in this year’s budget for the Council to run the market – it was not, under any circumstances, to be given to a private operator. He shared the concerns of others about the beer tent and said he passed by one night at 9.15pm and there were 250 people queuing to get into the tent which was supposed to close at 10pm. Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) and Mayor Flannery agreed that the beer tent should close earlier.

Cllr Ollie Crowe, a publican, said it was wrong that the beer tent was serving tankards of beer, which equate to five units of alcohol or two and a half pints. “It should not be served that way. If there’s going to be a bar in the market it should operate under the same conditions we operate under,” he said.

Mr McMahon said part of the €150,000 could be used this year for outdoor screenings of Christmas movies as part of the market, a suggestion that was made by Cllr Peter Keane (FF)

Many councillors said there was too much food in the market and not enough crafts or local produce but Mr McMahon pointed out that “only” 29% of the stalls were food. The interim report, dated April 9, 2018, did not give any details on the number of visitors to the market. It cited the licence application, which said “an attendance in excess of 250,000 people was expected” but it did not say whether or not this target was met.

Mayor Flannery, citing a book entitled ‘How To Lie With Statistics’, wondered who collated the figures “because they can be manipulated”.

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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