McDonnell lashes FG candidate for saying sitting councillors are inactive on housing

City Councillor Declan McDonnell has taken to task a Fine Gael candidate in the next local elections, over claims that not enough is being done by sitting councillors to provide affordable housing in Galway.

He said that the candidate’s energy would be better spent convincing his own party hierarchy to provide Galway City Council with the staff and resources needed to do their job — including getting a proposed development of more than 100 homes in Ballybane off the ground.

Last week Fine Gael Candidate for Galway City East, Shane Forde hit out at Galway City Council and its current members for it’s “complete failure in delivering any affordable housing schemes for first time buyers in the city.”

However, Cllr McDonnell said that Mr Forde’s comments were ‘a bit rich.’

“I find it a bit rich that a Fine Gael candidate is blaming the current city councillors for not providing affordable housing in the city.

“Coming from a Government party, and having contact with the Ministers within Fine Gael and even the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, he is surely in a position to press for what the City Council needs,” he said.

“For instance, there is a proposed development in Ballybane of 85 affordable housing and 19 social housing units, for which the Government allocated €5.7m six years ago. City councillors passed the necessary Part VIII planning process two years ago.

“The Executive of Galway City Council tell us that the reason the scheme has not progressed is a lack of staff. It’s not the councillors who are holding it up, but, according to the senior officials, it’s because they don’t have sufficient staff to get this scheme out for tender and a contractor appointed. They say it’s a huge difficulty.”

Cllr McDonnell said that another problem facing many councils was that staff were leaving in their droves to take up much better paying positions in the private sector, where they were valued assets.

“The Government need to look at the salaries these valuable senior local government officers are being paid, and bring them up to a level where they won’t be poached by the private sector. Closing that pay gap would also make jobs in councils more attractive to people in the private sector to take up,” he said.

The Independent councillor for Galway City East said that a lack of continuity of staff was impacting on the council’s ability to operate efficiently, with a lot of movement of people between councils to take up positions on promotion.

“Maybe we should have a rule that people of Grade 5 and upwards who secure promotion are required to stay with that section of the council for a period of, say, five years. This would give you a continuity and a consistency in dealing with projects, some of which can be complex and long drawn out affairs.”

Cllr McDonnell said that he and other councillors had been doing their level best to get the council to move on the Ballybane affordable housing scheme and other projects

“But when the City Council say that they haven’t adequate staff, how can they? Fine Gael candidates should use their influence with the senior figures from their own party in Government to get the council what they need, and prove to people that they are able to deliver,” he concluded.


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