Eight-hour meeting and little change from draft to agreed budget

The elected members of Mayo County Council last week agreed on the budget for the council for the coming year. The €130 million budget was agreed after a meeting lasting over eight hours last Friday, and for the most part the meeting passed off without incident as the members picked over the facts and figures presented to them by the council officials. There were only a couple of incidents of political point scoring with Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray getting into an argument with Fine Gael councillor Patsy O’Brien over the way the Government is running the economy and cutting funding for services. The Fianna Fáil party also forced a vote, which was defeated, on a potential one per cent rate cut near the end of the meeting.

The members agreed to put an extra €100,000 into roads maintenance, while increasing their own notice of motion allocation money up to €30,000. They also allocated an extra €10,000 for animal welfare and the same amount to the Western Alzheimer’s Foundation and another €10,000 to other groups.

The Fianna Fáil members of the council did force a vote on a potential rates reduction of one per cent, which Fianna Fáil party whip Cllr Mícheál McNamara said would be a gesture to the hard-pressed business community. For the Fianna Fáil proposal to be passed, they were told that they would have to identify exactly where the cuts in the proposed budget would be made. Cllr McNamara proposed that the savings be made from the €14.5 million budgeted for service support costs by the council; however county manager Peter Hynes informed Cllr McNamara that the support costs had been cut to the bone already and that any cut had to be identified in a budgetary programme rather than just the general support costs of the total budget. Fine Gael voted against the reduction, with party whip Cllr Joe Mellet saying that a one per cent cut would only be worth about €50 a year to the average ratepayer, while it was the big multinationals that would be the main beneficiary of a proposed cut.

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