An outspoken city councillor is threatening to “refuse to cooperate with the city manager” if he proceeds to privatise the Knocknacarra and Ballinfoile community centres.
Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly was reacting to City Hall adverts seeking expressions of interest to manage the facilities, a move she condemned as a “disgraceful” act “against the wishes of councillors”.
However City Hall has hit back, saying the process is “in no way an attempt at ‘privatising’ the facilities”, and that local and community groups are entitled to apply for the position of management.
“Expressions of interest are being sought from anyone and everyone that might be interested in managing the centre,” a City Hall spokesperson told the Galway Advertiser. “It does not preclude any group, either existing or which may come together, to look at managing the facility on behalf of the people. The centres must be run in a professional way, but this should not lead anyone to jump to the conclusion that we are looking at privatising either centre.”
The spokesperson added that the council “is anxious to ensure that locally-based groups are accommodated” in local centres at affordable rates. He also said that expressions need to be sought as City Hall cannot recruit any more staff under public service staff embargoes.
The expressions of interest are being advertised on an EU tender site, as contracts of this nature over a certain threshold must be advertised on the EU site. The closing date for receipt of expressions of interests is April 22. City Hall intend to go to tender by May 22.
Cllr Connolly though alleges that councillors were not informed of this process until they were sent an email after the adverts had been placed, although City Hall says councillors were informed by the manager of the manner in which the issue would be progressed.
Cllr Connolly is determined that any management should be community based or be an alliance of the council and the community. However councillors powers to influence the final outcome are limited as the process is an executive decision.
Nonetheless she said that when this matter comes before the council in May, councillors must “take the initiative and refuse to cooperate with the city manager if he proceeds to privatise the new community centres”.
“Councillors still have moral authority,” Cllr Connolly said. “If all 15 councillors stand together it would be very foolish of the manager to ignore them.”
Meanwhile Fianna Fáil Galway City West candidate David Burke will hold a public meeting on the future management of the Knocknacarra Community Centre.
The meeting will take place on Thursday April 17 at 8pm in the Clybaun Hotel and is open to all Knocknacarra residents, sports clubs, and organisations.
“There are huge concerns that the community centre is effectively closed every day during the week up to 3pm and fully closed on Mondays and Tuesdays,” he said. “At present, there is no FÁS scheme in place for the centre which would enable it to be open on a full-time basis.”