Monthly Archive for January, 2010

Cuts to council expenses at national level are welcome

 

I am very pleased that the Minister for the Environment John Gormley TD has acted to put a cap on the amount of money being spent on trips abroad by councillors across the country. Recent freedom of Information requests and figures obtained by the Department of the Environment show extremely high amounts being claimed by certain local authorities.


For example, county councillors claimed on average €6,769, with the highest claim being on Longford County Council where the elected reps were claiming a whopping €12,333 average [see press release below]


In Fingal, the Sunday Tribune recently discovered that just over €52,000 was spent by councillors – at that time the highest figure in the country – on 40 trips.


While no doubt some of these trips have value, at a time when the Council is cutting back on vital services, surely the first reductions should be in the area of travel expenses for conferences? A number of local authorities were not making the necessary reductions, which is why John Gormley has taken this action.


The high level of claims being made for so many conferences raises the wider question of the need to reform the huge range of committees and policy groups that spring up around councils. The directly elected Mayor of Dublin, combined with the proposals contained in the soon to be published White Paper on Local Government, will bring us closer to a slimmed down and more effective system of local government in this country.

 

 

Expenditure by Councillors on Conferences

The maximum limits are –

·      Counties and cities – €4,700

·      Boroughs and certain large towns that were formerly UDCs – €3,000

·     Towns that were formerly UDCs and certain large former town commissioners – €2,000

·      Towns that were formerly town commissioners – €1,000

Where the expenditure of a local authority is currently below the maximum limit, any increase in expenditure will be prohibited.

The limits will be imposed by way of Regulations made by the Minister.

 

Councillors’ travel and subsistence rates, in keeping with all public servants, were reduced by 25% in early 2009. This cut will in itself reduce the cost to local authorities of sending Councillors to conferences.

General guidance stresses:  

·         That the limits are maxima, i.e. local authorities will be encouraged to adopt the utmost care and prudence in providing for and incurring expenditure, particularly in the current difficult budgetary and economic circumstances 

·         While the limits are not to be interpreted as giving each councillor an individual entitlement to expenditure up to that average amount.  

·         The general need for a greater level of discretion, oversight and control to be applied by local authorities to expenditure on attendance at conferences and seminars. This would cover the points raised by the Associations in their submission, including –  

§  the choice of events to be attended 

§  increased focus on the use of the allocation for education and training type activities as opposed to conferences and seminars

§  proper practice by councillors in relation to attendance at events 

§  the strict adherence by councillors to their requirement to report back to their council following events.

 

Details for each type of local authority

County Councils

Position in 2009 Budget

Average expenditure per councillor – €6,769, ranging from €3,588 (Kilkenny) to €12,333 (Longford), and with two other local authorities having an average in excess of €10,000, i.e. Carlow and Cork 

City Councils

Average expenditure per councillor – €5,454, the range being from €2,780 (Dublin) to €12,558 (Limerick) 

Data received from all 5 city councils

City Councils 

Average per councillor – 2009 (€)

Cork

7,061

Dublin

2,780

Galway

4,467

Limerick

12,558

Waterford

4,333

County/City Councils combined

Average expenditure per councillor – €6,576

Boroughs and certain large towns (former UDCs)

Average expenditure per councillor – €4,591, the range being from €1,700 (Kilkenny) to €9,964 (Sligo).

Data received from all 5 boroughs                                                                                                                                                                                   

Borough Councils

Average per councillor – 2009 (€)

Clonmel

4,833

Drogheda

2,416

Kilkenny

1,700

Sligo

9,964

Wexford

4,042

 

Towns (former UDCs)

Average expenditure per councillor – €3,288, ranging from €89 (Trim) to €13,333 (Longford).   The other town councils exceeding €5,000 are Carlow (€6,433), Letterkenny (€7,500) and Mallow (€6,944).

It is suggested that this limit would also apply to the town councils (former town commissioners) of Droichead Nua (average expenditure per councillor in 2009 – €1,432), Greystones (€674), Leixlip (€556), Portlaoise (€111), Shannon (€1,056), and Balbriggan and Mullingar (data not available), to maintain consistency with the banding of towns used for the purposes of determining the Annual Expenses Allowances paid to councillors.

Town Councils (former Town Commissioners)

Data received from 13 of 26 towns, three key ones being as follows:  

Towns (former Town Commissioners)

Average per councillor – 2009 (€)

Droichead Nua

1,432

Greystones

674

Leixlip

556

For the remaining 10 former town commissions, the average provision per councillor is €626, the range being from €56 (Mountmellick) to €1,076 (Edenderry).

 

 

 

O’Gorman welcomes announcement of reinstatement of cervical vaccine programme

 

18/01/09

 


Green Party Dublin West representative, Roderic O’Gorman has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health that the cervical cancer vaccine will be made available to over 30,000 girls in first year of secondary school.

 
“I’m delighted that the Minister has decided to proceed with the roll-out of this programme. The decision taken last year to delay its implementation was a mistaken one in my belief. While the vaccine is not an absolute defence against cervical cancer, its 75% effectiveness rate, combined with the 95% effectiveness rate of the screening programme, should see a major decrease in deaths from disease into the future”, stated Roderic O’Gorman.

 
“This announcment combined with that regarding the roll out of a new Colon Cancer screening programme, emphasises that significant moves that this Government continues to take in the fight against cancer”, concluded Roderic O’Gorman.

 

 

Ends

 

O’Gorman calls on Fingal CC to pay more attention to Castleknock Train Station

 

 

10/01/10

 

 

Green Party Dublin West representative, Roderic O’Gorman has called on Fingal County Council to pay more attention to Castleknock Train Station in its Urban Design Plan for Blanchardstown Village.

 

“I’m calling on called on Fingal County Council to pay more attention to Castleknock Train Station in its Urban Design Plan for Blanchardstown Village. I’m concerned that the current Draft Plan is quite dismissive of the role that Castleknock Train Station plays for the village. The Draft Plan states that the station is “somewhat detached from the village”. It also points out at it is only 1 km from the Village centre”, stated Roderic O’Gorman.

 

“The Draft Plan also spends a considerable amount of time discussing the positive impact that Metro West will have on the village. While obviously a station at the west end of the Village would be fantastic, I think the Council should be putting at least as much importance on the station we currently have, rather than a station that is some years in the future. This is particularly the case as the number of trains serving Castleknock will increase over the course of this year, with the opening of the Dunboyne line”.

 

“A large number of commuters from Blanchardstown use the Castleknock Station everyday, and there are a number of measures the Council should look at to make it even more popular. One relatively simple measure would be a pedestrian crossing at the junction of Roselawn Road and the Castleknock Road. Currently, pedestrians take their lives in their hands as the cross between cars”.

 

“Fingal County Council should also examine widening the path from Blanchardstown up the hump-back bridge (Granard Bridge) over the canal. The path is extremely narrow – in places only one person can walk on it safely. It is particularly dangerous on dark nights when there is a large volume of traffic on the road beside it, or indeed, on icy days like we have experienced over the last two weeks”.

 

“In my submission on the Blanchardstown Urban Design Plan, I’ve called on Fingal County Council to take measures to better link Castleknock Station with Blanchardstown Village. I hope we see such measures included in the final draft”, concluded Roderic O’Gorman.

 

Ends

 

Further Information

Roderic O’Gorman: 087 417 9777

 

Press Release – O’Gorman wishes Brian Lenihan and his family well

 

04/01/10

 

 

Green Party Dublin West representative, Roderic O’Gorman has wished the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and his family well. He was speaking after the Minister announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

 

“I would like to give my very best wishes to Brian Lenihan and his family as he begins his treatment. There has been a huge groundswell of support for him across the political spectrum as he faces this illness. I am sure this must be a time of great uncertainty for Brian and his family. Irrespective of political differences, I believe everyone genuinely wants to see him beat this illness”, stated Roderic O’Gorman.

 

 

Ends

 

Further Information

Roderic O’Gorman: 087 417 9777

Press Release – O’Gorman calls for ‘high rise’ buildings to be removed from Blanchardstown Village Plan

 

 

04/01/10

 

 

Green Party Dublin West representative, Roderic O’Gorman has called on Fingal County Council to remove plans for high rise buildings from the Blanchardstown Village Draft Urban Design Framework Plan.

 

“Just before Christmas I submitted the response of the Dublin West Green Party to the Blanchardstown Village Draft Urban Design Framework Plan that Fingal County Council had put on public display. While I welcomed many aspects of the plan, I am deeply concerned by proposals to allow tall buildings be constructed in a number of locations within the village”, stated Roderic O’Gorman.

 

“The Draft Plan identifies 13 ‘Opportunity Sites’ throughout the village and makes proposals for their redevelopment. In nearly all cases, I agree with the need for some degree of redevelopment of these sites. However, in certain situations I feel that the density of what is being proposed, and in particular the height, is grossly unsuitable in light of the objective of protecting the village character”.

 

“This is particularly the case at the Bell Pub site, where a so called ‘signature building’ of up to 6 stories is suggested, and on the Superquinn site, where the Council are proposing a large 5 storey residential and commercial building”.

 

“Early in December I leaflet areas of Blanchardstown Village to let residents know what has been proposed and I have received a lot of contact from residents concerned over certain aspects of the plans. In order to address these concerns, I am calling on Fingal County Council to insert a new local objective into the Development Plan regarding the height of buildings permitted within the village. This should clearly state that buildings will not go beyond 4 stories other than possibly the area around the Garda Station at the north-west end of the village”, concluded Roderic O’Gorman.

 

 

Ends

 

Further Information

Roderic O’Gorman: 087 417 9777

My submission on the Blanchardstown Village Draft Urban Design Framework Plan

RE: Blanchardstown Village Draft Urban Design Framework Plan

 

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

Please find below the submission on behalf of the Dublin West Green Party regarding the Blanchardstown Village Draft Urban Design Framework Plan.

 

Kind regards

 

 

Roderic O’Gorman

 

General Comments

 

We welcome the detailed nature of the Draft Plan. However, we reiterate the point we made in our first submission that the subject area is excessively narrow. In particular, the failure to include the Roselawn Road and surround estates, the Roselawn Shopping Centre and Castleknock Train Station means that significant commercial, transportation and educational infrastructure is omitted, along with surrounding residential areas.

 

Movement

 

Rail & Metro

We submit that the discussion of Rail at 4.1.1. is quite dismissive. Castleknock train station provides a quality services to residents of the east side of the village, and this service is set to improve in 2010 with the opening of the Dunboyne line.

We would suggest that greater consideration should be given to increasing the accessibility of the Castleknock station to the rest of the village through signage, implementing a proper pedestrian crossing over the Roselawn Road and widening the footpath over the Granard Bridge. This would address the current “detached” nature of the train station. The focus should be on the train line that is up and running, rather than one whose future looks dubious in light of budget cuts.

 

Pedestrian

We argue that increased reference to pedestrian facilities should be made. In particular, there should be a greater emphasis placed on using the Tolka Valley and the Royal Canal as priority pedestrian routes. We would also suggest that pedestrian access to Castleknock Train Station be improved through the creation of a pedestrian crossing on the Roselawn Road and a widening of the footpath over the Granard Bridge, as referred to above.

 

Bus and Cycle lane Provision

We welcome proposals to create a bus and a cycle lane through the village. There will be a further need to consult with local cyclists to look at specific black spots that they face in the village, particularly on the outbound route which will not receive the benefit of the cycle lane.

The proposed bus lane will result in the elimination of some on street parking in the village. An examination the impact of reduced car parking on surrounding residential estates needs to be undertaken. Some degree of permit parking may be necessary to ensure residents of these areas are not disadvantaged as a result of this.

 

Closing Main Street

Page 31 of the Draft Plan refers to provision for the closure of Main Street for major events which would attract large crowds. While this would undoubtedly enable more community events to occur, the impact of traffic diversions on surrounding roads, particularly the Roselawn Road, would have to be accessed.

 

Noise Pollution

As with our initial submission, we believe that the Draft Plan should make a reference to the need for measures to reduce noise pollution suffered by residents living close to the N3, in particular on Herbert Road and Millstead. Residents of these estates have suffered over the years and the National Roads Authority has made little effort to address the situation. We argue that specific reference to the needs of residents of these estates should be included.

 

Planning & Rezoning

 

Building height

The Draft Plan identifies 13 ‘Opportunity Sites’ throughout the village and makes proposals for their redevelopment. In nearly all cases, we agree with the need for some degree of redevelopment of these sites. However, in certain situations we feel that the density of what is being proposed, and in particular the height, is grossly unsuitable in light of the objective of protecting the village character.

 

Site 1

We welcome the idea of providing a public space as a focal point for activities within the village such as markets or public events. However, we have concerns about the proposal for a 5 storey development on the site. This area is surrounded by established residential estates and we feel such a high development would impose on these properties.

 

 

 

 

Site 2

We welcome the proposal to develop this site as it is currently the focus of anti-social activity and causes problems for surrounding residential areas, such as Mary Brennan Park.

 

Site 7

The Draft Pan contains an extremely ambitious proposal for the Bell Pub site, including a 6 storey ‘signature building’ at the corner of the Castleknock Road and Navan Road at the east end of the village. We would argue that this is totally out of proportion with the rest of the village and the surrounding houses. If one of the goals of the redevelopment of Blanchardstown is to maintain the character of the village, then we argue that a building of this height in such a prominent position is completely unsuitable.

 

Site 10

We would welcome the proposal to have increased linkage from the village to the Tolka Valley and possibly further to the Waterville estate through this site. It should be born in mind that as this site includes some of the floodplain of the Tolka. We would have a concern that the proposed new buildings are significantly further within the flood plane and thus that they have an increased risk of being flooded.  

 

Site 11

We would have a concern that the proposed 5 storey building at the junction of Main Street and the Clonsilla Road is excessively high, regarding being had to the surrounding area.

 

Site 12

The Draft Plan again proposes relatively high buildings of 5/6 storeys at this point. We feel that the height is not such an issue as this is not the traditional heart of the village, and the buildings would be in the setting of other modern buildings such as the Garda Station and the Women’s Refuge.

 

Rezoning

7.14 A new local objective should be inserted regarding the height of buildings permitted within the village. This should clearly state that buildings will not go beyond 4 stories other that the area around the Garda Station at the north-west end of the village.

 

Tolka Valley

 

We would be broadly supportive of the proposals regarding the Tolka Valley. Any changes need to bear in mind the need to ensure that disturbances are not cause for those houses currently backing onto the village. New pedestrian and cycle links to Waterville, in particular the construction of new bridge are a welcome development.

 

Linking Blanchardstown Village with the Town Centre

 

We welcome proposals to improve the linkage between the Town Centre and the village. However, it is important that design features ensure that there remains a distinction between these two different areas with two distinct and different characters.

A possible connection through Springlawn to Town Centre would have both advantages and disadvantages. It would create a shortcut for those on the Clonsilla Road and surrounding estates to the Town Centre. This short cut is already unofficially used with many people jumping the wall at Springlawn. However, increased pedestrian traffic may bring anti-social, litter etc. along with concern about people loitering at the entrance. Any decision on this issue would require consultation and participation of the residents of the estate.