Refuse waiver customers protected until December 2015, says mayor
By Martina Nee
Mayor of Galway city Padraig Conneely has vowed that the estimated 2,400 customers in receipt of waivers for the city council refuse service will be protected until at least December 2015, as it will be a condition of the tendering process seeking a private operator to take over the service.
Since Tuesday, an estimated 10,500 Galway City Council refuse service customers received letters on their doorsteps informing them that from today, September 12, the tendering process will commence and will be completed by November 18 with a new service provider collecting household waste from that date. It further explained that as of September 10, 2013, waiver customers will have their refuse charges waived until December 31, 2014 and need not re-apply for next year.
Insisting that this period was not long enough, Cllr Conneely pushed the city manager Brendan McGrath to extend this to December 2015. Following a lengthy, and often heated debate, Mr McGrath acceeded to this request giving his commitment that it will form part of the conditions in the tendering process. Mr McGrath further confirmed that once a private operator has been selected they will take on the costs of operating the waiver system until the agreed date.
There was much concern expressed in the council chamber in relation to the waiver customers, with Cllr Declan McDonnell reminding elected members that throughout previous budgets “all 15 of us have been united in protecting this”.
Referring to experiences in Dublin, Cllr Billy Cameron said that the privatisation of the refuse service had been a “disaster”. He said: “We’re jumping the gun, we should at least wait to see if central Government is going to introduce a central waiver system. We’re going to penalise the people on the waiver system. As chair of the Westside Age Inclusion the response of a similar organisation in Dublin is that the elderly and the disabled are left totally wondering.
“My concern is the waiver customers, we have always managed to protect them,” said Mayor Conneely, who then made a formal proposal for the period of time for the waivers to be extended, adding that he didn’t “want the waiver customers to suffer”.
Stressing the urgency and importance of privatisation, director of services, Joe O’Neill, said: “The best way to protect the waiver customers is to act now. We have to have something to lever with. We can only act now while we still have a customer base.” Regarding plans for a national waiver scheme, Mr O’Neill said that he “wouldn’t hold out any realistic prospect of it happening”.
The proposal put forward by Mayor Conneely was seconded by Cllr Terry O’Flaherty and received six votes for and eight abstentions.
Speaking to the Advertiser yesterday, Mayor Conneely said that after a long “head-to-head” with the city manager he got that concession, that the waiver customers will be protected until December 2015. However, he blasted many of his colleagues for not supporting him adding “they didn’t have the courage to vote on it because it was from me”.
“The bidding document is gone, the process has started, but I rescued what I could out of it,” said Mayor Conneely, who still holds out hope that a central waiver scheme will come into effect.
“From my information that is still being pushed all the time, I’m hoping at least that now I’ve got the two years of a waiver, it will give enough time for the national waiver scheme. In the meantime, the new company has to pick up the waiver customers for free and after that they will probably do a good deal with these customers and work with them,” he said.