The 2014 budget for Galway County Council was passed unanimously with an anticipated expenditure of €122 million, representing €4.5 million reduction on the budget adopted for 2013.
At a special meeting at County Hall on Monday councillors were told there would be a number of adjustments to the draft Budget 2014 to account for the fact that the Local Government Fund allocation of €12.5 million was €200,000 less than what was anticipated, even taking into account the allocation from the fund to Irish Water. Out of this fund €400,000 is to go to Ballinasloe Town Council leaving €12.1 million for the rest of the county.
County manager Martina Maloney told the chamber that the drafting of the budget had been “particularly challenging” due in part to the Government policy of Putting People First which sets out significant changes in local government and that the council had only been informed of the Local Government Fund allocation the previous Thursday. She further explained that it had been anticipated to have the same allocation from the Local Government Fund as in 2013 but that this was not the case. However, despite these difficulties it is expected that the business community will welcome the decision by the council to not increase commercial rates. The county manager described the budget as the “optimum use of the resources available”.
The adjustments made to the draft budget include a €30,000 allocation to be used to find a suitable site or an existing building for a long-awaited fire station in South Connemara. An allocation of €10,000 was put towards finding a base for Galway Mountain Rescue. Other adjustments include a reduction in housing maintenance of €20,000, €25,000 taken away from mobility grants, and a €50,000 reduction for street cleaning.
Noting that the Local Government Fund has been reduced by 53 per cent compared to the allocation back in 2008, Cllr Jim Cuddy said the property tax is a “con job” where the public is told that the money will be used to improve local services but instead it is going to Dublin. He also described as “absolutely ridiculous” that the council is spending €200,000 on reconfiguring the chamber to accommodate nine extra councillors, a cost which has been imposed on the council by the Department who will not pay for it.
“It’s an awful lot of money and sends out the wrong signals,” said Cllr Cuddy who added that money could be saved by simply putting in one or two desks and using the savings for roads or disability grants.
However, despite these concerns Cllr Cuddy conceeded that the budget was a positive one, that it was “the best that could be done with the figures presented”.
The main priorities identified in the Capital Programme for 2013-2015 include: Progressing the Gort to Tuam PPP with a view to the project going ahead within the next few years; work has commenced on the preparation of a revised planning application for the Galway City Outer Bypass; low cost targeted improvements on the national secondary network where safety is an issue and in tourist areas, in particular the N59; continuing investment in flood defence and mitigation, with support from the OPW, in particular the progression of the Dunkellin Scheme; work will continue with Failte Ireland on the development of the Oughterard to Clifden Greenway and the Wild Atlantic Way Orientation plan; the Ballinasloe Library project will be advanced due to the allocation of €200,000 from the Department of the Environment; and the council will continue to progress energy efficiency of the social housing stock, limited local authority housing output and the increased use of voluntary housing agencies.