Ballina councillor asks chamber of commerce if it has ‘contemplated life’ without town councils

Chambers’ views on abolition of councils also questioned

The CEO of Ballina Chamber of Commerce, Sandra Cribben was given a tough time by a number of Ballina town councillors this week on Chambers Ireland’s position on the abolition of town councils.

Ms Cribben was at the January monthly meeting of the town council to give the elected members a presentation on the work that Ballina Chamber of Commerce had carried out last year and were planning for this year in the promotion of the town. Initially after her presentation, there was a lot of praise for the work carried out by the chamber, but near the end of comments from the elected members some tough questions were asked of Ms Cribben. Fianna Fáil, Cllr Johnny O’Malley got things going when he asked did the chamber have a plan of action in place to keep up some of the projects in the town once the town council was abolished after its current term expires in the mid-2014. He went on to list out a number of projects that the town council provides significant funding for in the town each year, which he estimated was in the area of €100,000. In a later contribution to the debate Cllr O’Malley also questioned the chamber’s ambivalence to the wind down of the town council saying, “I also note that the chamber hasn’t lobbied for the retention town council.”

Independent Cllr Mary Kelly hit out at the stance taken by Chambers Ireland, the umbrella group that Ballina Chamber of Commerce is part of. Cllr Kelly told the meeting, “I’d like to thank you for your presentation, but Chambers Ireland in a previous white paper called for the abolition of town councils”

Ms Cribben responded saying that she personally didn’t support the abolition of town councils and that it wasn’t Chambers Ireland that bought it in and that she thought this was something that they should work on together to try and solve.

She also said that there were reasons that Ballina had to stay in the Chambers Ireland organisation. The CEO told the meeting that Ballina Chamber of Commerce is part of Chambers Ireland and they have also considered whether they should stay within the organisation. But with a major part of their business being the issuing of certificates of origin for their members who export produce abroad and they can only do that if they are members of Chambers Ireland.

Cllr O’Malley had earlier in the meeting asked, “Have you contemplated life without this town council?

“There’d have been no rapid funding for CCTV without the town council, or the €35,000 this council gives to the Christmas lights, or the €20,000 the council gives for promotions in Ballina each year, the €25,000 it gives for the festival in the town and the €5,000 for the St Patrick’s Day parade,” he added.

Through all the items he mentioned, Cllr O’Malley estimated it was worth around €100,000 of investment. He questioned had the Chamber met with Dep Michelle Mulherin TD “the local, Government TD” about sourcing funding for these projects when the town council is no longer there. Ms Cribben told him that the Chamber had met with Dep Mulherin last year and with Dep Dara Calleary and would keep working with them on the projects.

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