The members of Ballina Town Council passed a motion on Wednesday night calling for the revenues raised in the town from rates and parking charges and other levies usually imposed by the town council to be spent in the town following the abolition of the council next year.
Mayor of Ballina Town Council Johnny O’Malley put forward a motion stating “Ballina Town Council calls on the Minister for Environment when introducing legislation for the new Municipal District Councils to ensure that all funds raised in a particular area are retained in that area.” Mayor O’Malley’s motion received the full cross-party backing of all members of the council. He told the meeting: “This town council each year raises about €3 million from rates and another €700,000 from parking charges, and through raising that money we have the freedom to spend it how we like in the town it’s raised from. Now, I see this money going to go into Mayo County Council and we might not even see the money spent in the town come back into the town. You’d like to think that it would be spent here, or at the very least in the new municipal area that Ballina is included in.”
Cllr Gerry Ginty seconded the motion and told the meeting: “In this council we’ve three Fine Gael councillors, three Fianna Fáil, and three Independents, but we’ve always worked together for the better of the town. But I’ve seen in Mayo County Council how things are decided by the majority party and that’s that. Things like the budget aren’t decided in the council chamber by in the caucus rooms, and in the future I’d fear that this is what happen here. I’d agree that at the least it should be spent on the larger area.”
Cllr Willie Nolan said: “I fear that Ballina will end up losing between at least €1 million and €2 million a year from what is currently being spent here.” Cllr Peter Clarke pointed out that businesses were worried by the fact that Mayo County Council charges a rate that is six per cent more than Ballina Town Council charge.
Cllr Mark Winters supported the motion and informed the meeting that he had seen a draft document which outlines that there will be a transition period in relation to rates, where there will be a few years for the rates to be brought in line with each other. He also said it was expected that each municipal area would have a certain leeway where it could can raise or lower the commercial rate in the area by a few percentage points to offset the county rate.
Cllr Mary Kelly asked why the Government did not put the choice of retaining or abolishing the town councils before the people, like it did with the referendum on the Seanad a fortnight ago. She also said that people were finally beginning to see what the town council does and provides in the town and the loss of local democracy it will be.