Supporting Opinion

Galway City Council's Crown Square buy was so good it was kept quiet!


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway City Council's Crown Square buy was so good it was kept quiet! Galway City Council's Crown Square buy was so good it was kept quiet!

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Some clarity emerged at the July Ordinary meeting of Galway City Council over its €56m project to move City Hall from College Road to newly acquired offices at Crown Square.

But there is still a lack of clarity about how the deal arose and who initiated it.

In November 2021, rumours reached this newspaper, claiming the Council planned to buy Crown Square to relocate City Hall.

It was far-fetched, but we lobbed in a query anyway.

On Monday, December 6, 2021, the Tribune emailed Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, and said a number of sources had suggested the Council was in the process of valuing City Hall with a view to selling the premises and moving to new offices in the Crown Square in Mervue.

“Can you confirm the Council is contemplating a move and sale, and how far along the way is the process?”

A comprehensive response, reproduced here, was issued on December 9, 2021.

Brendan McGrath said: “In the recently adopted City Council Budget, funding has been included to secure on a rental basis, including fit out, additional office accommodation of between 10,000 sq. feet and 15,000 sq. feet. All available office accommodation options for this space are presently being examined and no decisions have yet been made as to where that space might be.

“When a location is determined, it will be decided on the basis of a business case that will present the most economic advantageous outcome for the City Council (the M.E.A.T. principle under public procurement).

“The additional space is required as we will be employing additional staff in 2022 as provided for in the recently adopted Council Budget.

Furthermore, we are also anticipating that further additional staff, directly funded by a couple of Government Departments, will also be recruited in relation to the Capital Housing Delivery programme, active travel and in relation to the Climate Action Agenda.

“It is probable that reduced COVID related restrictions in existing buildings will shrink available office space in City Hall by between 10% and 15%. Furthermore, we are also seeking to bring existing staff from satellite offices into a single location, the space for which is not available in City Hall.

“At this time, it is hoped that we can secure additional accommodation and have it available in Q2/Q3 of 2022. Galway City Council has not made any decision to sell, vacate, etc City Hall and we have not examined such an option. We regularly update values of our Corporate estate, both for fire and insurance purposes and also for Asset Value purposes under our Annual Financial Statement. We recently procured valuations for fire/insurance purposes only for a number of City Council-owned premises, including City Hall. I trust the above addresses your query and if you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.”

Meanwhile, a February 2022 Council-commissioned report by Power Property, said: “Negotiations to acquire the property began in October 2021. The proposed purchase price of the property was agreed in February 2022, subject to legal due diligence, contract, finance, and the approval of [city councillors].”

So according to the CE in December 2021, the Council wanted to rent offices. But official reports said negotiations to “acquire” the property, started in October 2021. The actual plan was not made public by the Council until July 2022.

Many councillors have argued the decision to buy was a good one. Time will tell. But if this was such a good idea, a positive investment for the betterment of Galway, and its citizens, why was it kept quiet until three days before councillors voted on it?

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the July 14 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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