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Community grants a ‘major stress’ on Council coffers



The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has warned that a ‘funding pot’ system may have to be introduced for community organisations to replace existing grants, because of strained local authority coffers.

Outlining his Budget 2016 proposals, Brendan McGrath said many groups which had benefitted from grants in the past had an “expectation” that this would continue each year.

However, he said this policy worked to the detriment of other groups who cannot be supported.

He praised the wide range of “excellent and committed” organisations, but said that with no increase in income to the Council, grants are a “major stress” on the city’s finances.

“Over a number of years, the Council has committed to a range of multi-annual funding initiatives, all of which, particularly in combination, are imposing a major stress on the city’s finances, especially when considered in the earlier context of a stagnant income base.

“There also has been a tendency to continue to fund some organisations, though extremely worthy in their own right, on an annual and continuing basis. In many cases, the tendency has been that if an organisation has received funding once, that the funding stream will continue annually.

“Among the consequences of such a policy is that many worthy groups cannot be supported, because there is limited or no additional income available.

“Some funding choices have, in the past, been made in the absence of coherent and transparent policies. As a result of some groups receiving funding in a previous budgetary cycle, the perception often exists that such funding should continue. There is also an expectation among such groups that such funding should continue.

“I am very much aware of the many funding demands that are being made of councillors from a wide range of excellent and committed organisations, all of whom are playing important roles in the delivery of programmes within the city,” said Mr McGrath.

He suggested a ‘funding pots’ or ‘staggered’ system, where organisations would bid for grants.

“There is a need for a more equitable and balanced support and funding regime for all of the many bodies that the City Council supports to better inform how such funding should be considered.

“Consideration could be given, for example, to the provision of staggered funding over, say a three-year horizon for groups, providing that the funding provision in year one will be reduced in year two, further reduced in year three and eliminated completely in the fourth year.

“Rather than providing a series of bespoke grants to a particular organisation, it might be preferable as an alternative, if pots of funding are provided for certain activities on a bidding basis, subject to very clear qualifying criteria and a very open and transparent evaluation and selection process.

“In my view, an over-rising consideration in the award of funding to any group should be a requirement to address the question how and in what ways does the area of the activity of the group deliver to the strategic objectives and goals for Galway City that have been established by the Council, and furthermore, to what extent will the work of the group or the project that is seeking support contribute to the Council’s own objectives,” the Chief Executive said.

Funding for organisations for next year will be discussed by councillors at a budget meeting this evening (Monday).

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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