THE decision of Ennis Town Council to discontinue €50 a year parking concessions to HSE staff has been described as “heartless”.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the local authority, Councillor Paul O’Shea urged that the seven HSE staff from offices at Museum House, Francis Street, continue to obtain the parking concessions of €50 a year and a supplied parking disk.
“These staff give essential support to old people, children and the terminally ill and I find this decision heartless. They are looking after the emotional and medical support of these people,” he stated.
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle agreed that the staff do good work, adding, “It cost €8 for me to park at the hospital in Limerick, the HSE are very good at giving a high cost.” He commented that there are many other people in a similar situation to these members of staff.
Councillor Johnny Flynn supported the motion. “These are crucial frontline staff, they provide a very important community service and these will be even more important if we see further service closures in the hospital,” he commented.
Councillor Frankie Neylon suggested that the staff share a couple of permits to be used when they are parking at their offices.
Councillor Tommy Brennan informed the council that the seven staff were only part of the issue and that he had had representations from district nurses with similar concerns. “We can’t just do it for one and not another,” he commented.
Town manager Ger Dollard told the meeting that the decision was no reflection on the valuable work being done by the staff.
“As part of the discussions on the budget about parking, the continual message was that parking spaces need to be properly managed. In the good years, certain practices built up, very lenient practices. Up to 40 people in the HSE availed of the special parking permits.”
He stated that the council signalled their intention to discontinue the arrangement more than 12 months ago and that the local authority have offered the staff business permits.
Councillor Guilfoyle commented that business people should be supported while Councillor Brian Meaney stated that he understood Councillor O’Shea’s sentiment but that a review of its effect on the budget would need to be done.
“What services would need to be curtailed if we were to provide this? We would need to assess its impact,” he said.
Councillor Peter Considine commented that the HSE should be paying for parking and not nurses. Councillor Mary Howard suggested that a charge of €100 to €150 would be more appropriate.
In response to Councillor O’Shea’s motion, Eddie Power, town clerk, stated, “A review of car parking in Ennis was carried out during 2010 and this concluded with the publication of the Draft Car Park Bylaws, which are currently on display.
In previous years, a number of parking concessions were made available to a range of persons involved in community services at a reduced rate. The appropriateness of allowing parking concessions was considered as part of the parking review. It was decided in March 2010 to discontinue this arrangement, primarily as a consequence of the changing economic circumstances and its impact on council finances.
“The council again notified the persons who previously had the benefit of the parking concession again in December 2010, advising them that the special concession would not be available in 2011. It is important to note that the change that is taking place does not impact on the availability of car parking spaces of any of the parties/recipients of the parking concession. The staff in Museum House are conveniently located for nearby car parks of Francis Street and Abbey Street,” Mr Power said.
“The council has no objection to the issuing of business permits at a cost of €300 or €500 as appropriate to the persons concerned.
“Meetings have been held with the particular individuals and correspondence has also issued setting out the present position of the council.
“In the interest of consistency, the former recipients of this parking concession will be dealt with in the same manner as other business permit holders,” he added.