Mayor Frank Godfrey and Deputy Mayor Cllr. Kevin Callan who, along with all three Sinn Féin members of the Borough District of Drogheda, last night voted to reject the amended parking bye – laws.
Councillors of the Borough District of Drogheda last night rejected the newly amended bye-laws covering parking charges in the town with several members accusing the Council of overriding a previous decision to set the hourly rate at €1 per hour.
Ever since March 5th 2018 when Louth County Council boss Joan Martin suspended parking charges in Drogheda after a member of the public questioned the legality of parking fines he had received, the search for new Bye Laws has convulsed local politics.
The suspension of charges left a €300K hole in the Council’s budget but the search for replacement arrangements that are acceptable to all parties has been a long and difficult process which has taken more twists and turns than a bag of snakes.
Following numerous and often lengthy meetings at which agreement could not be found and which at times put the very existence of the Council in jeopardy, the budget was finally agreed in December, just minutes before the deadline for abolition.
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Along with many other elements the €106m budget included parking charges of €1.10 in both Drogheda and Dundalk and also stated that the 219 free parking spaces in Drogheda would be removed.
It had been agreed at a very stormy meeting in September that the charge would be reduced to €1 to match that in Dundalk, but that decision was seemingly forgotten about in the budget or overtaken by events and was never implemented.
Roll on a month to last night’s Borough meeting when the newly amended bye-laws, including the new charge of €1.10, were presented by the Council for formal adoption by the war-weary Councillors.
You could see though, that some of the Councillors were wary as well as weary. Independent Councillor Kevin Calllan was the first to intimate that he’d not be rubber stamping the new bye-laws.
Callan recalled that vote which was passed in Drogheda to reduce the fees to €1.00. “A vote was passed” he said, directing his anger at officials, “you either have the Borough District making decisions or the Council dictating to us but you can’t have both.”
Labour Councillor Pio Smith said that we wouldn’t be in this situation now if members had not voted down a proposal he made at the October meeting to accept parking fees of €1.20 per hour with 20 cent of that being ring-fenced for spending in Drogheda.
At the time he said that the rejection, on the casting vote of Mayor Frank Godfrey, had cost approximately €300,000 per year which would have been spent in Drogheda. It was, he said, a €1.5m missed opportunity for Drogheda.
Council Senior Executive Officer Paddy Donnelly explained to the meeting that the parking charges were currently set at €1.20 per hour and that the amended bye-laws if adopted would reduce this to €1.10.
He also explained that any change in relation to the all-day car parking charges is a matter for the Council and would be put before the members at another time.
Several councillors asked what would happen if they did not adopt the new arrangements and they were told that the fees would remain at €1.20 which is ten cent higher than the fee applied in Dundalk.
“The Chief Executive took power from us and made the decision (not to adopt the €1 fee), complained Sinn Féin Councillor Kenneth Flood. Tonight we’ve been excluded from the budgetary process yet again.”
The matter of whether or not to adopt the bye-laws as presented by the Council was finally put to a vote and defeated by five votes to four.
For – Cllr. Paul Bell (Lab.), Cllr. Richie Culhane (FG.), Cllr. Pio Smith (Lab.) and Cllr. Oliver Tully (FG.)
Against – Cllr. Joanna Byrne (SF), Cllr. Kenneth Floof (SF), Mayor Frank Godfrey, Cllr. Kevin Callan (Ind) and Cllr. David Saurin (SF).
This article was written by Andy Spearman