Galway city Mayor Padraig Conneely has slammed senior city hall management for their failure to collect over €9m in outstanding development levies, just days after city council members were chastised for rejecting a controversial levy increase.
The Mayor’s comments came just days after city manager Joe MacGrath told council members that their decision to reject a presupposed development levy rise would cost the city between €30 million and €40 million in revenue.
Calling the figure “pie in the sky”, the Mayor said that the manager needs to deal with the reality of the situation before blaming the council for money issues faced in the city.
“He needs to deal with the reality on the ground, there is €9.3 million owed to him. He’s owed that money and he needs to collect,” said Mayor Conneely. “These were acquired between 2004 and 2007 when the housing boom was ongoing. The money was there then but he never collected.”
It was during the meeting on Monday that the city manager proposed a dramatic development levy increase that would see a 75 per cent rise in commercial development levies and a 45 per cent rise in residential levies. The manager, who commended Galway city on being “the most competitive city in the country” with regard to development, said that the city’s levies needed to get in line with those in other major cities in order to maintain their competitive advantage and provide the necessary infrastructure in the city.
Following a lengthy debate, which included reservations from a number of councillors who believed that the increased costs would actually discourage development in the city during an economically unstable time, the council voted in favour of an amended motion by Cllr Declan McDonnell which would see an increase of five per cent for the first year and 7.5 per cent for the following three years.
With the decision finalised the city manager made his disappointment known by telling the eight councillors who voted in favour of the motion that they had just lost the city between €30 million and €40 million. The officials claimed that the increased levies, which would be topped up by government funding, would help provide for the necessary infrastructure and community projects over the coming years.
Mayor Conneely, however, says that outstanding development levies in the city, which date back as far as 31 December 2007, could be “put to good use in the city”, and that the lack of government funding in the city, including €8m which is outstanding for Mutton Island, must be addressed immediately.
“It is not something I can deal with, it is a management issue. But the truth is he is owed this money, so why hasn’t he collected?” asked the Mayor. “That money would go a long way towards what he wants to do within the city.”
“The failure of the Galway City Management to collect these outstanding levies must be rightly addressed,” concluded the Mayor.