CONCERN has been voiced by several West Clare councillors about the lost opportunity to change the charging structure for parking in seaside towns, as a way of resourcing local facilities.
Progress with the updating of parking bye-laws, which could see changes to the current charging policy, was outlined at a district meeting last week.
Several members voiced frustration that the status quo will remain in place this summer, while the area’s Director of Services said charges will ultimately have to be considered for facilities which have previously been free.
The matter was raised by Councillor Shane Talty who tabled a motion asking about extra staff resources for 2022.
He also asked for an update on the county-wide review of parking systems. The Ennistymon man welcomed the fact that facilities will be available for the upcoming four-day Bank Holiday weekend.
However, he expressed concern that there will be no change to parking bye-laws this year.
“There is money escaping that should be captured,” he remarked.
“In some areas, we are literally allowing money to flow away. If we tidy up the bye-laws, there will be a better opportunity to finance services and amenities. It’s a pity the bye-laws won’t be finished for 2022.
“When it comes to vans and campers, the system is largely unregulated and it’s a pity we can’t have more power to regulate and opportunities to charge and raise revenue.”
District Cathaoirleach Cillian Murphy expressed his frustration at the pace of review.
“It’s an awful waste for this year,” he said. “We’re looking at a massive amount of lost revenue. If there are no parking bye-laws for a main street, somebody can park and leave for the weekend.”
Councillor Ian Lynch noted that bye-laws are about more than raising revenue. “These are also about the proper functioning of parking at places like piers and so on,” he said.
Councillor Talty also thanked staff of the municipal district for their efforts in providing additional services to cater for the boom in tourism.
“We have seen crazy staycation pressure over the last two years,” he said. “The key is to be prepared on the lifeguard front.”
Councillor Ian Lynch, who seconded the motion on increased staffing noted that “everyone is flat out”. “We need an open discussion on resources,” he said.
Councillor Joe Garrihy agreed. “The West Clare Municipal Staff go above and beyond,” he said. “Sometimes that’s taken for granted. Frank discussions need to be had.”
Senior Executive Officer (SEO) John O’Malley said staff are working very hard to prepare for the tourism season.
“We have meetings at the end of each season to review things, as well as meetings with HR and Finance,” he said.
“The season is getting longer all the time. St Patrick’s Day will mean an extra long weekend this year and we will be opening facilities, with a knock-on impact on budget and human resources.”
Director of Services Leonard Cleary said the aim is to identify new revenue streams to provide resources at beaches. “A small contribution for parking would help fund services like lifeguards, cleaning and so on,” he said.
“We don’t have capacity out of rates for the Local Property Tax (LPT). We will have to generate some income from services we haven’t charged for before. People appreciate a good service.”
Councillor Lynch also noted he received replies from council staff as late as 11pm. “Does HR know and appreciate that?” he asked. I made the decision to be a councillor on top of my job and that’s on me, but your job should end at 5pm.”
A written reply to Councillor Talty’s motion on the bye-laws said: “At present there are parking bye laws in place for Ennis, Kilrush, Kilkee, Lahinch and Doolin Pier.
“Where existing bye laws need to be amended, new bye laws will be drafted in consultation with the relevant Municipal District and An Garda Siochána.
“The draft bye laws will then go through a statutory public consultation phase before being considered for adoption by the Council. If existing bye laws need to be amended, it is anticipated that it will the second half of this year before draft bye laws are finalised.”