Galway County Council has come under criticism from its elected members for failing to address housing waiting lists while continuing to spend in excess of €11 million per annum on housing.
According to Galway County Council, there are now 2,876 applicants on the council’s housing waiting list. However, in its 2014 budget, the local authority announced that it intends to construct just three rural homes this year.
Despite these modest construction plans, the Council’s total expected outlay on housing and building in the 2014 budget is €11,022,540, almost ten per cent of the local authority’s budget for the coming year.
The €11 million allocation includes €3,340,135 on maintenance and improvement of council housing, €3,211,248 on the Rental Accommodation Scheme, €1,364,092 on housing loans and €710,827 on housing grants.
Speaking at the County Council’s statutory budget meeting at County Hall this month, Tuam area Councillor Tom McHugh questioned whether the local authority had adequately examined its housing spend in advance of drafting the budget.
“In housing, we’re spending €11 million. We’re not doing anything really other than managing existing stock, but we’re still spending €11 million,” said the Fine Gael Cllr.
Cllr McHugh said that Galway County Council would be “well-advised to do an in-depth analysis” of the housing department to see how “efficient or otherwise” it might be.
Cllr Seosamh Ó Cuaig said that it was ironic that Government parties were celebrating the centenary of the 1913 Lockout this year as one of the causes of that event was the fact that 20,000 families in Dublin lived in poor housing conditions, and similar problems persisted today.
“That was an international scandal,” said the Connemara area councillor, noting that “at this moment, we have 20,000 people waiting on houses in the city and the county”.
Ballinasloe area Cllr Timmy Broderick also noted that the local authority was “spending an awful lot of money managing things”.
However, Galway County Manager Martina Moloney responded to councillors’ concerns over housing spending by assuring members that no item of expenditure was brought before the Council for consideration without undergoing the most rigorous assessment first.
According to its budget, Galway County Council expects to recoup €3,360,050 from government grants and subsidies in 2014, a marginal increase of €75,480 on last year’s allocation.
The Council expects to collect €5,950,000 in rents from its tenants in 2014, an increase of €190,000 on the €5,760,000 the Council expects to collect by the year’s end.
This income, combined with interest and charges from housing loans, and other income will leave the local authority with estimated income from housing of €10,991,826 in 2014.
The local authority’s budget is €5 million less than in 2013, with a gross spend of €122 million expected, a 23.75 per cent drop from its 2008 high of €160 million.
Galway County Council says it will “continue to assess the needs of all housing applicants and determine the most appropriate housing options having regard to the funding available for various schemes”.
“The unit will continue to assess policies and procedures so as to ensure the best use of available resources to meet priority service areas,” it said.