New City Manager Breandan McGrath has wasted no time in laying down the law at Galway City Council and reminding councillors who is running the show at City Hall and what will and what won’t be tolerated when it comes to city matters.
Mr McGrath’s coercive style, epitomised last week by his decision to present a fait accompli to councillors in regard to the canning of the refuse service, is a long way from the laborious debates of latter years, where proposals were carefully presented and as carefully lobbed back at officials every time a suggestion was made that offended someone’s sensibilities or turf.
The democratic process has to be respected in most matters, but when it is seen to consistently result in a stalemate after hours of debate or where it is used to over-turn previously debated decisions that subsequently prove unpopular, even after the horse has half bolted – note the Kirwan roundabout debacle – then someone has to call time.
Of course, what makes Mr McGrath’s move all the more admirable is that it seems to make absolute economic sense, if councillors could see beyond their own noses and face up to the fact that the city cannot keep throwing good money after bad.
Galway City’s refuse service has lost 9,000 customers in 14 years, which means that a large chunk of the people that the councillors are trying so desperately to protect have already voted with their dustbins and are going elsewhere for their bin collection service.
The service would cost the city €4.2 million this year, while only taking in €2.2 million, leaving us with a shortfall of €2 million. Mr McGrath has pledged to make €1 million of this available for reinvesting in local works, including the maintenance of public areas and street cleaning. No staff are to be laid off, with those affected offered re-deployment or voluntary redundancy.
Cries for the future of the waiver scheme also seem somewhat disingenuous, as there is no reason why the council cannot come to some arrangement with the new provider to ensure that those most in need are catered for.
So, one might ask, where’s the councillors’ beef? Rather than trying to block Mr McGrath’s decision, councillors should work with him to see where else efficiencies can be achieved and where money can be redirected for the good of the city.