Supporting Opinion

Galway’s new CE must sort communications problems


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway’s new CE must sort communications problems Galway’s new CE must sort communications problems

Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column by Dara Bradley

The new head of Galway City Council, Leonard Cleary, is due at his first Council meeting on May 13.

Ahead of that, the North Clare native held a meet-and-greet session with councillors at City Hall last Monday.

Elected members had already rubber-stamped his appointment at the March meeting, following a Public Appointments Service recruitment process.

So, Monday’s informal briefing was all about councillors getting a feel for the new Chief Executive’s leadership style.

As a man of the cloth – he was ordained a deacon of the Diocese of Cloyne – honesty and integrity will surely be among his many attributes.

Councillors will be hoping he has strong work ethics, too, because he’s got a mountain of work to get through.

Chief among his full in-tray of issues to sort must be communications.

How the Council communicates with the public; how it communicates with councillors; and internal communications with staff, have been below par for too long now.

Breakdowns in communications are affecting staff morale and negatively tainting the public’s perception of the Council.

Workers in media organisations are increasingly frustrated with how queries are dealt with. Questions go unanswered for days and weeks, and often stories are carried without responses because City Hall is not forthcoming with information.

That’s not solely the fault of its communications office. It’s an ethos that has permeated the organisation. Staff in other departments aren’t supplying answers to the communications team in a timely manner – and without raw information, they cannot adequately reply to media queries.

That impacts the relationship between the Council and the public. So too does poor communications between Council staff and councillors.

Remember in February the Council organised a public meeting to explain its plans for new houses on in-fill sites in Ballinfoile.

Some residents got notes about it through their doors two days in advance. But not every letterbox got one. And this note was not signed by any individual – a practice that has crept into Council communication which removes accountability.

Worse again, councillors were notified by email at 7.13pm about the meeting that was taking place at 2pm the next day. The Council then had the audacity to call it ‘consultation’. It highlighted the contempt that management had for councillors.

Internal communications needs fixing as well. The €56m Crown Square City Hall relocation project confirmed that.

The staff who are expected to work at the new building and the public who are expected to avail of public services from it, were the last to know about the controversial deal. Their views or input were not sought.

There was zero staff consultation before the purchase was approved, and now they’re laden down with staff committees and surveys about the planned move and fit-out, which smacks of shutting the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

If the new CE doesn’t change course on those three aspects of communications, it will be an uncomfortable and unsuccessful tenure.

Pictured: Galway City Council’s new CE Leonard Cleary. One of the first issues he needs to address is communications –  external and internal.

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