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Council Briefs: Who Should Get Council Contracts, Housing in Finglas, Delivery Hubs, and More

Attendance was low at the council’s monthly meeting on Monday night.

By the time the first roll-call vote – rather than voice vote – was done at 9:20pm, just 26 of 63 councillors were in the chamber, the voting records show.

That might be one reason why, unusually for its monthly meeting, councillors flew through several pending motions – some of which had been waiting for more than a year.

Dementia Friendly

All who spoke backed Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney’s motion to make Dublin a dementia-inclusive city.

“The disease can lead people to be very isolated in their communities,” she said, as she introduced it.

So she wants dementia-awareness training for council staff, those in area offices scattered across the city, or in the housing department, who are likely to come across people who are living with dementia.

Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan said she would like the training herself. Other councillors would benefit too, she said.

Council Chief Owen Keegan agreed the council would do that.

Bogus Self-Employment

“We should set the standard as far as the construction industry is concerned,” said People Before Profit Councillor Andrew Keegan, when his motion came up.

He wants the council to only accept tenders from companies employing contractors on their building projects who directly employ their workers.

In other words, there should be no “bogus self-employment” on council sites. His motion was motivated by the proposed development of a super depot in Ballymun, he says.

Other councillors backed the motion. “The current tender process just creates a race to the bottom,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Séamas McGrattan.

Kathy Quinn, the council’s head of finance, said tender documents state that companies have to meet civil- and labour-law requirements. But self-employment and using sub-contractors is legal, she said.

The council could write to the Department of Housing and try to move the agenda in the direction that councillors want it to go, she said.

David Costello of Fianna Fáil said the council has set other rules around who can bid for council projects, such as turnover requirements. So why not around subcontractors?

Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne said that’s grand to have it in tender documents. But what happens after? “What do we do after somebody gets a contract, to ensure that they’re not using bogus self-employment?”

The council’s human-resources department monitors contracts, says Quinn.

Keegan, who had proposed the motion, said that council management just tick the boxes, but “there is actually […] no safeguard for the workers behind the scenes”.

He wants to see the council approach the department about it, and put safeguards in place, going down the line and making sure everything is above board.

Councillors agreed the motion.

What Kind of Housing?

When Fianna Fáil Councillor David Costello put forward a motion to accelerate plans to build homes on a site in Finglas, it kicked off a discussion over what kind of homes should go there.

Costello’s motion called for the council to provide “social and affordable homes” on the site, which is where the Abigail Centre homeless accommodation is right now.

Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne called for that to be changed to “public housing”.

Why get bogged down in semantics? asked Sinn Féin Councillor Anthony Connaghan.

Because “public housing” means publicly owned, said People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh. “Words are important.”

“Affordable” could mean for-purchase private affordable, and mean selling off the land, she says.

Didn’t councillors back the call at a special meeting recently for a dramatic increase in public housing? asked MacVeigh. “If they’re going put their money where their mouth is and they weren’t just posturing last week, they’ll accept the motion.”

Ten councillors voted for the amendment to change the wording to “public housing”, and 16 voted against.

Costello changed the wording to “affordable, including cost rental” and councillors voted that through. He didn’t want to hold the project up and risk the community opposing it, he said.

Chief Executive Owen Keegan said the council is procuring a design team for the project. But it also has to find somewhere to move the homeless hostel to. “That is not going to be easy,” he said.

Delivery Hubs

Earlier in the meeting, councillors voted through bylaws to allow for delivery hubs whereby last-mile distribution can be done by low-emission and electric vehicles, bicycles or on foot – rather than big gas guzzlers. Those who want to operate them have to apply for a licence.

In May last year, the council ran a pilot project on Wolfe Tone Square with UPS setting up a hub where bicycle couriers, or those on foot, could take over city-centre deliveries from larger vehicles that take up more space, issue more emissions, and block cycle lanes.

In the six-months after that, more than 2,500 stop-start delivery-vehicle journeys – the kind that are typical for delivery vehicles with lots of drop-offs – were removed from the city centre, according to the council.

At Monday’s meeting, independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said he thinks the pilot was successful. But he said he hopes that any hubs will be better-looking that the one at Wolfe Tone Square.

That one was ugly, he said. They should be “designed in a really really appropriate way”.

Lois Kapila portrait
Lois Kapila

Lois Kapila is Dublin Inquirer's managing editor and general-assignment reporter. Want to share a comment or a tip with her? Send an email to her at info@dublininquirer.com.

 

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