Westport town councillors have voted against the introduction of on-street car parking charges, from April to October, which means that the €150,000 revenue needed to “balance the books” for the 2011 budget needs to be culled from expenditure.
On Thursday evening, town manager Joe Beirne recommended that councillors adopt the on-street car parking charges as it was essential for “income and traffic management” in the town.
Councillor Ollie Gannon criticised the management of the council as in the last seven to eight months it has lost €80,000 from parking revenue due to the pay machines in the car parks not working, and “no alternative action was taken”. Cllr Gannon also queried the income of €30,000 from parking fines relating to existing on street car parking, which is a “poor return”.
Cllr Staunton concurred that it was “grossly irresponsible” to leave these car parks free and this was “on the verge of being a scandal. The Fine Gael Cllr said that current bye laws not being enforced and he proposed not to adopt these bye laws at this time, which was seconded by Cllr Michael McLaughlin.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Brendan Mulroy, who has strongly voiced his opposition to the introduction of on-street car parking charges, said that Fine Gael had done the “greatest u-turn of all time” as only he and Cllr Keith Martin voted against the budget proposals for on-street car parking when the budget was adopted.
Cllr Mulroy said that Fine Gael have come back into the chamber with their “tails between their legs” and he slammed the fact that they were “blaming the executive for everything”.
The Cllr said that Fine Gael took the credit for the rate decrease and then “they figured out” that the people of Westport didn’t want on street car parking and are now trying to “wiggle out of it”.
Labour’s Cllr Keith Martin agreed with Fianna Fail’s Brendan Mulroy that Fine Gael councillors along with Independent Martin Keane underwent a dramatic “damascan conversion”. During the meeting Cllr Martin also promised that he and Cllr Mulroy would be introducing a bye-law to enforce residents only parking in the Crescent.
Cllr Christy Hyland said that the councillors did not do a U turn, but “listened to the views of the people”.
Mr Beirne said to town councillors that they have adopted the budget and rate reduction “on the assumption of car parking charges” and now expenditure has to be adjusted in accordance, which will have a “detrimental effect” on some commitments.