DAIL Candidate, Cllr Eddie Mulligan Fianna Fail briefly reviews Waterford’s woes in 2019 and states that progress has been snail like as Waterford’s National politicians circle the wagons protecting collaborative actions of a Government and a Junior Minister underperforming for Waterford. We have Government members unable to champion or drive projects forward in 2019, the year that saw adversarial politics all but disappear for Waterford. But is this working for Waterford?
Statistical analysis over the last 3 years confirms that Waterford City is in the midst of an economic crisis, if not an emergency. We have the highest unemployment in the Country whilst the Government ignores how poor we are performing economically with most recent Central Statistic’s Office Earning Analysis showing that Waterford has had the 3rd worst average wage increase over the last six years. The 2016 Census not only revealed that our median Household Income was 13% behind the State level (€108 per week), but that many the blackspots for unemployment were in Waterford City.
Rebuilding the City’s economy is one of my priorities and the current statistical analysis available is black and white on how Waterford and the South East have been failed by the current Government TDs. As an aspiring National politician, I firmly believe driving a successful local economy we must create an environment that will attract the highest paid jobs in the Country to Waterford. These are currently the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector. The drive for investment in a University City to stem the brain drain, combined with a focus on attracting ICT and Financial Services jobs must be intensified.
Statistical Analysis Summary
19/11/19 Labour Force Survey Q3 Region
UNEMPLOYMENT STATE – 4.9%
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE SOUTH EAST -7.3% – Highest in Country
15/11/19 CSO Earnings Analysis 2013 to 2018
INCREASE AVERAGE WAGE 5.2% – 3rd from bottom
AVERAGE WAGE 2018
*28% behind Dublin
*11% behind Cork & State Average
*7% behind Limerick
CENSUS 2016 HOUSEHOLD INCOME
13% Behind State Average
11% behind Kilkenny
No National Politician has understood the necessity and significance of championing the North Quays. Waterford Council applied for €105m under the Urban Renewal Development Fund and despite the fact appending totals €12m to date, only €6m has been received from Government. This was in 2018 and our Junior Government Minister and Fine Gael’s John Deasy must hang their heads in shame with a big fat zero delivered in 2019. All I’m hearing from the CEO of Waterford Council is that there’s goodwill at Departmental level but the facts are all that was delivered in 2019, is ‘thin air’, and ‘hot at that with how much of it came from politicians mouths’.
The North Quays is the primary key enabler for the growth of Waterford City Centre as per the National Planning Framework Ireland 2040 Strategy (NPF). The Planning Application from the investors is now submitted and now more than ever we need an adversarial politician that will challenge for Government delivery of its commitments to Waterford. The NQ is the perfect location for Government decentralisation and a hub of ICT businesses which would drive up our average wages. The City must expand into Ferrybank, as soon as possible.
NORTH QUAYS AND THE MICHAEL STREET NEW STREET RETAIL OFFERING
At a recent Council Meeting, the CEO Michael Walsh confirmed that legal issues are being tided up to transfer the ownership of the site to Falcon Real Estate under previous agreements. In light of the City Centre’s footfall and occupancy challenges there is already planning on this site and political pressure must be exerted on the NQ Developers to ensure that construction worker boots are on the ground on this site asap sending out a clear message that 2020 begins the decade to invest in Waterford City, with immediate improving offering and experience.
A UNIVERSITY CITY MUST BE CHAMPIONED
The establishment of a technological university (TU) in the South East, is an important part of the Government’s higher education policy. However, our local Government Minister of State has failed to champion and drive this forward at National level whilst locally our Council have failed to create the environment of preparing to be a University City. This must change for 2020, and Government must show the leadership required to deliver the TUSE with Council ensuring we stimulate the creation of a University City in our new City & County Development Plan currently being prepared.
Whilst Waterford Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology Carlow, which form the Technological University for South East Ireland (TUSEI) consortium, continue to work towards submission of an application for TU designation under the 2018 Act, the lethargic attitude of Government towards the TUSE is laid bare in the allocation of funding to date. TU Dublin has received 42% of all TU funding to date at €13.1m whilst the TUSE has been allocated a mere €3.72m indicating a strong region bias while also being a long way from the funding needed to deliver on the Government’s so called policy. National politicians must change this in the new decade and must be instrumental in ensuring that the academics understand urgency around the economic benefits of a University to kick starting a strong circular economy within the region.
24/7 CARDIAC CARE
The lack of an around-the-clock Cath Lab at University Hospital Waterford is a long bugbear of the citizens of Waterford and the South East. Whilst planning permission has been submitted for the second Cath Lab and the recruitment process commenced for expanding the hours of operation for diagnostic and interventional procedures, the ultimate goal of 24/7 Emergency Cardiac Care seems to be escaping a lot of priorities in the current void of adversarial politics, very evident by the dates being voiced for delivery of the 2nd Cath Lab.
What’s more, the HSE & Department of Health’s apathy toward the National Review of Cardiac Services can be summed up by its journey towards the ongoing ‘imminent’ publication dates. Minister for Health Simon Harris stated that the review was expected to be completed in June 2019, having announced the review in June 2017 following the death of a patient being transferred by ambulance from Waterford to Cork. The status of the cardiac review is listed as a “minor challenge” in the Sláintecare Action Plan 2019 Mid-Year Deliverables Report, published recently by the Department of Health. The report stated that significant work has been completed on the cardiac services review, but further work, including completion of analysis on drive times to specific locations is required and that the report will be finalised in Q4 2019. We’re still waiting”
You would expect the Report to endorse the necessity of 24/7 Emergency Cardiac Care at UHW but 2020 must see the political pressure increase at National Level for the urgent delivery of 24/7 Emergency Cardiac Care with nothing less being acceptable.
At a relatively recent briefing by the General Manager UHW, I was informed that there were 200 unfilled vacancies at the hospital. The decade ended with UHW having the lowest number of staff per bed between UH’s Galway, Limerick and Cork amongst many more. In fact, UHW is managing with 30% less staff and €20m less in budget than the similar bed numbered UH Limerick. The new decade has to change for Waterford and National politicians must embark on an adversarial political campaign to ensure parity in Health from staffing, to capital projects to resources from the Department of Health.
It is unacceptable that the Capital Budget for the construction of a new mortuary at Waterford University Hospital was allowed be carried forward year after year without delivery. It is appalling that it took a local journalist and his newspaper to press the Minister into action which recently saw the contracts signed for the delivery of a new mortuary and associated chapel. Mulligan states that full credit must be extended to the journalist on persevering with this story and now with reports that tenders had been over budget, the immediate priority must now be to clarify that the original plans tendered, are being delivered in their entirety.
AMBULANCE TURNAROUND TIMES
An important element of a lifesaving Emergency Department, is the Ambulance Service. Only last night, I had a call from a constituent waiting two hours for an ambulance to arrive for an urgent cardiac issue. Figures produced in 2019 confirmed that almost three quarters (74%) of ambulances bringing patients to UHW are being held up for more than half an hour, compared to one in two (52%) at same time in 2017. This huge deterioration in ambulance turnaround times over the past two years is unacceptable and is preventing them ensure an adequate response to life threatening emergencies and our National politicians must now focus on stopping the practice of ambulances stacked at the doors of UHW Emergency Department acting as mobile emergency trollies with ambulance staff being utilised as emergency department support.”
It is now six months since Junior Minister Halligan announced the conditional funding to extend the Waterford Airport Runway. Whilst the intended land compulsory orders were published in local papers I believe that the Minister must now Champion this project and ensure the momentum is kept and that the runway and funding are delivered within the conditions that he negotiated, as soon as possible. The decade ended with The Island of Ireland Airport Traffic Report showing strong passenger growth in Belfast, Dublin & Cork City Airports whilst the Regional Airports of Knock & Kerry are also strong & steady. The continued growth, shows that if Waterford Airport delivers the runway and a carrier, there is huge opportunity to immediately gain from this growth in the adjacent Cities feeling recovery and get our Airport back toward the 2008 145,000 passenger numbers. As a hard BREXIT looms, Waterford must become be an International Gateway to Europe.