Council deny existence of €22m bank account

Claims that Mayo County Council are sitting on €22 million worth of unspent development levies in a bank account have been rejected by a senior council official this week.

Labour party PRO Harry Barrett said he had received information from the Comptroller and Auditor General through a freedom of information request that there was €22.2 million in unspent development levies lying in a Mayo County Council bank account, but the County Secretary Mr John Condon has denied this is true.

This will be bad news for the Claremorris electoral area where local councillors this week had already begun to spend their share of the spoils.

Mr Barrett released a statement earlier this week making the claim and showed a county-by-county breakdown of development levy monies which had been unspent by local authorities around the country. He said local authorities were holding back over €1bn in funding because the Department of Environment, who are supposed to match funding collected by way of levies, hadn’t the money to match the levies, given the current economic climate. Cllr Barrett said such money should be used in Castlebar to develop a long-awaited swimming pool, new playgrounds, a town park and the river walk.

However, the County Manager has shot down Mr Barrett’s claims, explaining that money collected through development levies goes towards the funding of water and sewerage schemes, among other projects. He added that there is never enough from development levies to actually fund these projects, leaving the council to make up the shortfall.

Mr Condon told the Mayo Advertiser that he wished such an account existed. He said levies are collected to fund certain schemes but “it is never adequate to meet the cost of providing services”.

The rejection of Mr Barrett’s claims will be bad news for the seven electoral areas in Mayo who had been expecting to receive €3 million each from the “account”.

At a meeting of the Claremorris electoral area committee on Tuesday, committee chairman Councillor John Cribben raised the issue and had a motion passed that €3 million would be spent in each of the electoral areas. However, it seems they were jumping the gun. Cllr Pat McHugh immediately proposed that some of that money should go towards road widening works at the back of the convent in Claremorris after he was involved in a “near miss” there recently. He told the meeting that the road was in the same condition now as when he was travelling on the school bus many years ago.

But Cllr McHugh will have to find a different source of funding for these works following the council’s denial that the €22.2 million actually exists.

At that meeting senior executive officer Mr Patsy Burke said he was also not aware of the account.

 

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