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CITY TRIBUNE

Redirected City Council funds lead to recruitment ban

Dara Bradley

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An unofficial embargo on staff recruitment is underway at Galway City Council – because money earmarked for more front-line workers has been diverted to deal with the local homelessness crisis and housing shortage.

All 18 city councillors voted in favour of taking some €280,000 from City Hall’s revenue budget in 2019, to put towards city homeless services.

Dermot Mahon, acting Director of Services for Housing, told elected members, in response to a query from Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind), that the cutbacks to pay for additional homeless funds would come from the “payroll sector”. He said that there would be a delay in recruiting Council staff that had been earmarked for certain areas.

“No frontline projects or services will be affected,” said Mr Mahon, whose report said the money would be sourced from “saving across the revenue budget”.

He explained that the approved budget for homeless services in the West this year was €5.822m. By July, some 91% of it (€5.2m) had been spent.

“It is envisaged that an additional €4m is required to fund homeless services to the end of 2019,” he said, adding that 90% of this extra spend was recoupable from Government.

The remaining 10% is to be paid by local authorities in the West, and €280,000 was Galway City Council’s share of that.

Cllr Niall McNelis said the City Council was spending €350,000 per month on housing homeless people in city hotels and hostels. “It’s getting worse,” he said.

Cllr Collette Connolly (Ind) said families are being split up by the homeless crisis. “Women are told to go to COPE, the men go to the Fairgreen,” she said. “I know one mother who three weeks after giving birth had to change hotels. Children aren’t within schools’ catchment. That’s the reality of this,” she said.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he was aware of one family who have been living in emergency accommodation for three years.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) said the Fine Gael-led Government, which is being kept in power by his party, was completely out of touch on the issue of housing and homelessness; and he urged party leader Micheál Martin to collapse the Coalition and spark a general election.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said the Government had taken steps to rectify the problem, including introducing Rent Pressure Zones. He said many landlords are fleeing the market because it’s not worth their while once mortgages are paid and the taxman takes his share of the profits.

CITY TRIBUNE

€3bn plan for new hospitals at Merlin Park

Denise McNamara

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How the 200-bed elective hospital may 'fit' into the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 1,150-bed acute hospital and a separate 200-bed elective hospital at Merlin Park – costing in the region of €3 billion and taking up to 15 years to deliver – are included in a new report on health infrastructure needs for Galway.

A review of hospital requirements has produced ambitious proposals for the elective hospital – costing around €1.2bn and taking a decade to build – and acute hospital to replace UHG which would take 15 years to deliver.

The so-called ‘options appraisal’ conducted on behalf of the Saolta University Health Care Group concluded that separating acute and planned services – through the development of a purpose-built elective facility – will greatly improve efficiency and patient access by reducing waiting times and cancellations.

It will allow the Saolta Hospital Group to significantly increase the level of day surgery and reduce length of stay for patients.

Currently there are 46,000 people on a waiting list between the two hospitals with a further 14,000 patients travelling to Dublin from the Saolta region every year for treatment.

“The demand capacity gap will grow to a shortfall of 276 beds at Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin combined] alone. Do nothing is not an option,” consultants KPMG wrote.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister gives go-ahead to army accommodation plan

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The USAC complex in Renmore, which is set to be redeveloped.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 50-year-old building at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa in Renmore is to be renovated to provide additional accommodation for members of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence has confirmed.

Minister Paul Kehoe (FG) told the Dáil that the former University Students Administrative Complement (USAC) complex would be redesigned to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms.

“The rooms are fitted out to a basic standard and ablution facilities are provided communally. The building is nearly 50 years old and does not meet current standards with respect to building constriction methodology, fire prevention measures and energy efficiency,” said Minister Kehoe.

While currently in its early design stages, it is expected that construction work would commence late next year, he added.

USAC is a purpose-built facility constructed in the 1970s to accommodate Officers of the Defence Forces undertaking courses at third level institutes in Galway.

While located adjacent to the barracks in Renmore, it is outside the confines of the barracks and is self-contained with its own access and parking.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Taskforce gets down to work in Ballybane

Enda Cunningham

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Aoife Tully having fun in Ballybane Playground.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Ballybane Task Force is on a mission.

Since the cooperative made up of all major stakeholders set up two years ago, they have set themselves the goal of highlighting the positive work in train in the eastern suburb while providing support for community, voluntary and residents’ groups that currently operate.

They also want to encourage the participation of all locals – new and long-term – in activities while giving support to developing projects and initiatives.

Already the Task Force has spearheaded some tangible results. Last week, a homework club for secondary school students opened and an afterschool service for primary students will begin in January following the recruitment of staff.

There was further good news earlier this year with the redevelopment of the derelict Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre. It is set to be transformed into a revitalised enterprise centre, scheduled to be open in January.

One of the first tasks the group pursued was to identify gaps in resources and services across Ballybane and lay out a blueprint for action.

They secured funding to appoint a consultant to review this in depth and make recommendations.

The results of that needs analysis have just been published. Its overview of the area’s deprivation makes for stark reading.

Ballybane is described as the area where the older housing estates are bordered by Ballybane Road, Monivea Road and the Dublin Road, but excluding the Doughiska development.

It has a male unemployment rate of 25% or over – compared to a 15% average in the city – a lone parent rate of 35% or higher (24% in the city) and a 35% rate of children leaving school in the early years of secondary school (17%). Just one fifth go onto third level, compared to half elsewhere in the city.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of this feature on the regeneration of ballybane, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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