It is a year since I was elected to Meath County Council, representing the Trim Municipal District, and I wanted to take the opportunity to say a big THANK YOU! THANK YOU to those who voted for me on Friday 24th May 2019. THANK YOU to those who helped me so generously and without complaint to canvass, leaflet drop and generally promote me as a candidate. THANK YOU to everyone who has followed my social media posts, shared them and shared their opinions with me on them. But the biggest THANK YOU is to those of you who entrusted me with your issues and concerns since I’ve been elected. I hope that whether I was successful or not in resolving your issue, that you felt my dealings with you were professional, courteous and that I tried my best. I had set myself a target on election of a quarterly newsletter, which would inform you of all my activities and provide information on all my successes. Then I intended to pull together my election team and blitz leaflet the whole area in a day. But life gets in the way, work, home life and getting a handle on the role of a councillor as well as dealing with queries were my priorities and I just never found the time to write it all down! If Covid has thought me anything it is – rejoice in the small things and little wins and follow through on your goals. So here it is, my first newsletter. Unfortunately it will not reach anyone who is not on my social media pages or has not given me their email address but when we find our way through Covid-19, I can rectify that. In the meantime you can help by forwarding this newsletter to any of your friends, family or neighbours.
SO WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN 12 MONTHS ON THE COUNCIL?
Loads! Here are just a few things: Approved the annual budget and not increased Local Property Tax Started the County Development Plan Secured funding for the theatre in Trim Improved walkways in the Porchfields Added Age Friendly spaces and Big Belly bins around the area Ribbontail Walkway has opened in Longwood AND WHAT’S TO HAPPEN IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?
My personal goal which I have been chipping away at since election is a remote/digital working hub in the town. This has become even more of a priority due to Covid-19 and you can read more about it overleaf. As a Council, if we get back on the road to recovery soon, I’d hope the following would be achievable: Start the work on the new theatre Start the work on the Porchfields theatre project Houses on the Athboy Road to be occupied by local authority tenants Contactless parking meters in Trim Pinebrook WILL, 40+ years later, be taken in charge Follow through on my promise to deliver adult outdoor gym equipment (a location is being investigated)
One of the most rewarding aspects of the job as a Councillor is the opportunity it gives to help people and organisations on an individual basis. I have done this on hundreds of occasions since being elected. Many of these contacts have been based around information seeking. I see this as one of my main roles as a councillor. It is great to be able to source information, seek answers and assist people understand and access whatever it is they need - whether it be a social welfare payment, community funding scheme or a housing application.
My biggest disappointment is the difficulty I have in helping people in two key areas - housing and health. The system is very unresponsive in these two key areas and for me it is devastating to see families in dire straits unable to access these services. These are major national emergencies that our next government has to address with serious urgency.
KILDALKEY PRIMARY SCHOOL
Open 2 years this coming September, the primary school still has not got the required public and pedestrian lighting. I was delighted to facilitate talks between all parties – concerned parents, the school’s design team and Meath County Council. This has resulted in the Department of Education and Meath County Council committing to completing the works ASAP. I am confident that lights will be installed prior to year 2.
Like many others I was shocked to see the number of students originally denied a place in Boyne Community School last September. I was happy to advise many parents how to resolve their difficulties through the Section 29 process and that this resulted in many students getting their places and many parents worries being removed. I requested the Board of Management to amend their admissions criteria to ensure this does not happen again. Parents and students can do without this kind of worry and stress. To ensure that we have sufficient places in Trim schools in the future I tabled a submission to the Draft Meath Co Development Plan calling for some forward planning for educational facilities. Following queries to the Department on my behalf I am delighted to say the Department of Education submissions on the County Development Plan, finally gives a commitment to expand Boyne CS, relocate Scoil Mhuire and improve Educate Together.
In Enfield, the post primary school is finally a reality. Despite some uncertainty about location I really think that parents should take the leap of faith and enrol their first years. Enfield has fought for this school for two decades and local support is essential to make a success of the venture. If the temporary accommodation is not ready when schools re-open (September hopefully) contingency plans will kick in. It will be an excellent school of the highest standard led by Principal, Shane Foley, who has a stellar record as principal in Dunshaughlin Community College. This together with the eventual development of the OPW/ESB Building for Community Use is fantastic news and well deserved by Enfield.
One of the most satisfying campaigns I was involved in in the past year was when I joined forces with local parents in Summerhill and on the Athboy road area in Trim to secure school bus places for students who had been refused them. It was a great achievement to get the Department to change the rules to get most students places. It doesn't happen too often because the Department’s rules for entitlement defy logic. This is a topic I continue to ask our national representatives to raise and resolve. A determined group of parents led by an old (as in former!) neighbour of mine contacted me about not being able to get children from their lane onto a bus to Dangan. We managed to secure a change to the route which makes such a difference to these families. Well done to all involved.
COUNTY DEVELOPMENT PLAN
The County Development Plan is still taking shape although it is delayed due to the current pandemic. There were many submissions made by people from the are and I'd urge you to get in touch with me (if you have not done so already). The next phase of the plan is for the Chief Executive of Meath County Council to prepare her report on the public’s submissions to present to us the councillors. We can accept or reject her proposals. Rural one off housing is effectively being made impossible for anyone with a farm holding of less than 25 acres. I have objected strongly to local people, having grown up and lived in an area all of their lives, not being able to build on family land. I made a number of submissions in this phase and the previous phase individually and as part of the Fianna Fáil councillor group. These included:
More land being zoned educational
A county museum to be housed in Trim
Remote working hubs for Trim and Enfield
A standard configuration for traffic calming such as ramps at every school in the county
FUNDING FOR COMMUNITY GROUPS/ESTATES
Discretionary funding for councillors has been suspended and Pride of Place has been cancelled because of the impact of Covid-19. This means the bulk of community groups funding is obliterated, at the worst possible time. The cut to Pride of Place in particular is a real disappointment as it is a really lovely acknowledgement of our volunteers across the county. The awards nights are most enjoyable too. We are assured by Council Officials they are working on plans to ensure that, despite the event not taking place, community groups who apply for Pride of Place will receive some sort of monetary award. I will share details as soon as we have discussed and agreed this. I met with a number of residents/residents group over the past 12 months and community spirit in so many of estates is alive and well. I am delighted that following representations on behalf of Tower View residents about trees damaging footpaths, sewerage issues, poor signage, the Council have allocated a substantial sum of money to rectify the estate’s issues. I have worked hard on this since it was raised with me during the election so it's great that residents who have fought for this for decades can now see an end in sight.
Now more than ever, we need to listen and take note of the needs of our local businesses. Despite starting to work through the plan to re-open the country, we really don’t know how our businesses will fare. What we do know is, so many of them have shown such community spirit and volunteerism despite their own adversities that we must not forget it when we return to “normal”. So many have adapted and diversified and ensured essential services and supplies were available for us. I will continue to foster and strengthen the link between traders and Council as it is so important. As a member of the Boyne Valley Tourism Committee, it is heartening to see the attitude and resilience of the industry. We will do everything we can to support them. Hopefully we can salvage some tourism events towards the end of the year such as The Puca Festival which was such a resounding success in Year 1.
REMOTE WORKING HUB
We have launched the Knightsbrook Hotel Spa & Golf Resort Remote Working Hub with Meath County Council and I am delighted to say that Knightsbrook have generously provided 4 workstations for our one time commuters who might be more than a little sick of the kitchen table or spare room!
A one off registration fee of 10 euro can be paid over the phone at reception from Monday 29th June, with desks available to book from Tuesday 30th June. I hope demand will exceed supply and prove our need for a permanent, purpose built remote working hub in Trim. This is a practical feasibility study for it. And I sincerely thank Knightsbrook for their assistance and support in this regard.
I encourage all of you who are currently working from home where possible to try out the facility. Taking part in my survey and giving feedback on the hub will be really beneficial for its future delivery - www.aislingdempsey.ie/surveys