Chamber and Town Council reach deal over free parking saga

A simmering row between a number of local politicians and the county town’s main business representative body over free Christmas parking measures looks to have eased after a meeting of both organisations earlier this week.

A simmering row between a number of local politicians and the county town’s main business representative body over free Christmas parking measures looks to have eased after a meeting of both organisations earlier this week.

The Leader has learned that up to seven of Longford town’s current crop of town councillors held talks with Chamber of Commerce representatives last Friday morning following an earlier Town Council meeting two days earlier.

At that meeting, differences arose between some councillors over a request made by the Chamber to secure free parking for their much publicised 12/12/12 shop local campaign.

This, despite the council agreeing earlier this month to provide free parking for local consumers throughout the course of Christmas week alongside four additional Saturdays in December.

Speaking at last Wednesday’s monthly meeting however, Town Clerk Dan Rooney said traders had since written to the council, seeking permission to swap December 19 for December 12 to boost their retail led campaign.

That plea looked to visibly frustrate certain representatives, most notably Cllrs Paul Connell and Tony Flaherty who spoke out on the issue.

“They (Chamber) don’t run this council,” said Cllr Connell. “Certainly, I have no problem giving the Chamber the 12th, but you can’t be taking one for the other. We made a democratic decision.”

Taking a similar view, Cllr Flaherty said providing a further day of additional free parking was likely to heap additional pain on an already cash strapped Town Council.

Branding the request as “a little bit Irish”, Cllr Flaherty said the Chamber needed to be made aware of the council’s own financial plight.

“I have no problem letting them come in and see us (Town Council) after the finance meeting and showing them where we are expected to get €200,000 in 26 days. There’s no mud slinging yet, but it won’t be long before mud is slung,” he said.

Cllr Brendan Gilmore backed those claims up by saying the council should stick to what had earlier been agreed.

Others, such as Cllr Michael Connellan advised that the council should perhaps sit down with the Chamber in an attempt to secure a lasting resolution.

Cllr Mae Sexton agreed, saying the need to foster a closer working relationship with local businesses had never been greater.

And it was at those discussions last Friday morning that Town Councillors and Chamber bosses finally reached agreement with today (Wednesday) being sanctioned as a free parking day in addition to complimentary parking over the festive period.

One local representative who endorsed the agreement was Town Mayor, Cllr Peggy Nolan. Despite enduring a “sleepless weekend” over the long running saga, she said the concessions put in place by the Town Council would provide a welcome tonic to the local economy and business community at large.

“It’s a gesture of support,” she said. “And as Mayor of Longford and on behalf of my fellow councillors, I wish to fully support the excellent initiative of the Longford Chamber of Commerce and the traders who are participating in the 12-12-12 shopping bonanza. Longford Town Council have turned on the Christmas lights one week earlier than in previous years and with the further expansion of free parking to cover December 12, it is our hope that shoppers will enjoy what Longford has to offer this Christmas Season.”