Councillors deplore ‘mythical’ sale of refuse service

Despite the tendering process to privatise the household waste collection service being already at the half way stage, many city councillors are still calling on city manager Brendan McGrath to reconsider his controversial decision which they describe as a “mythical sale” and a further culling of the power of elected members.

Councillors received the independent legal opinion they had sought in relation to invoking a Section 140 motion, however it found in favour of the decision made by Mr McGrath. It advised the decision is an executive function that cannot be interfered with and that a resolution directing the service to be retained would contravene Section 140(10 ) of the Local Government Act 2001.

At Monday’s meeting of the city council Cllr Colette Connolly said in view of this legal opinion and after discussing it with fellow elected members she was withdrawing the Section 140 motion but re-submitting a motion “deploring the decision of the city manager to privatise the refuse collection service of Galway City Council”, and further calling on him “to reconsider that decision in view of the primacy of the role of elected representatives, as outlined in the Action Programme for Effective Local Government stating that ‘the principal role of the elected council is to determine the policy of the local authority’, and to heed those views.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Billy Cameron and later passed with eight in favour and six against.

Thanking the city manager for getting the second legal opinion, Cllr Catherine Connolly said that was where the thanks stops. “This is the worst decision made by the council since 1999. In my opinion it highlights the hypocrisy of page five of the government policy Putting People First [Action Programme for Effective Local Government], the whole purpose of which was to rebalance powers. We had no say in relation to water, now waste, also housing because all the construction has stopped. We have no power except in relation to the budget. I deplore this decision. This and the water are two essential services that should be maintained,” said Cllr Connolly who added there was no indication of what was going to a happen to the composting site in Carrowbrowne.

Also enquiring about the future of Carrowbrowne, Cllr Tom Costello asked: “What other services are in jeopardy? Does the privatisation stop here?”

Describing the tendering process of refuse service as a “mythical sale” Cllr Peter Keane said: “All you are selling on is a load of bins. It flies in the face of Putting People First. This is a culling of power, hot on the heels of the sale of Bord Gais and the water. You will be ringing Beijing next to get pot holes fixed.”

Lending some support to the city manager, Cllr Declan McDonnell said: “People have to realise he had to make a decision because any business that is losing €1.6 million would not continue with it. He is trying to protect the waivers, I think that shows what councillors are worth. By June Waterford will be discontinuing their waste service, so beyond 2014 no council will continue with it. The manager has got what I believe is the best deal for Galway.”

Director of services Joe O’Neill told councillors that a review of the Carrowbrowne site will be carried out in an attempt to establish “what it will take to provide the service into the future on an economically viable basis”. Regarding Cllr Keane’s remarks, Mr O’Neill said: “It’s not just about the value of the bins, there’s a well establlished business with 10,000 customers. The actual value placed on that is a matter for the bidders themselves. There is no shortage of interest, there wouldn’t be if they thought there was no value.”

Mr McGrath explained: “There are eight stages to finding a new provider and the council are currently at stage four with applications expected to be received from bidders next week. The decision has been made, the only deviation is if a successful bid does not materialise but I don’t think that will happen.”

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