Councillors demand more discretionary funding

Claremorris councillors adopted draft budget while Ballina councillors rejected it outright

A battle is looming over the amount of money that Mayo County Council wants to allocate to the four municipal districts for discretionary spending by the councillors in these areas.

This week saw members of the four municipal districts meet, ahead of next Monday’s full meeting of the council, where they were presented with the draft budget for their districts.

The Castlebar and West Mayo Municipal Districts were meeting as this paper went to print yesterday evening, but it was expected that there would be strong opposition to the sums allocated for discretionary spending in the areas.

This particular budget item is used by councillors to fund community groups and projects in their locality.

The three former town councils were very strong in this area, having large portions of their budgets set aside for these projects.

There was considerable concern that when the town councils were abolished, this funding would be slashed.

Mayo County Council has proposed that each area would be allocated €250,000 for this type of spending, which is a big reduction on what was allocated by the town councils previously.

Last year alone, Ballina Town Council allocated €322,500 for this budget, with Mayo County Council adding in €24,000, and there were individual councillor allocations totalling €16,000 - adding up to a total of €372,000 that could be spent on discretionary items by the councillors in the district. This year the allocation for Ballina has been cut by €122,000.

At Thursday morning’s meeting of the Ballina Municipal District, the full complement of elected members rejected the budgetary proposals put before them.

Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly led the charge and proposed that the €1 million in total that had been allocated for the four areas be increased to at least €3 million.

Independent councillor Gerry Ginty, the only member of the old Ballina Town Council returned at this year’s local elections, gave his full backing to Cllr Munnelly’s proposal. He commented: “I see a nasty trick here, trying to set rural areas against the town areas. I won’t settle for anything less than what Ballina town got last year.”

Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne from the Castlebar Municipal District told the Mayo Advertiser before yesterday’s meeting: “I will be rejecting it. I will be proposing that Castlebar gets €1 million itself. The old town council budget was €7 million alone, we were told by former minister Phil Hogan that by shutting down the town councils we’d save millions. Well I say, just one of those will do us just fine.”

Fianna Fáil’s West Mayo Municipal District representative, Cllr Brendan Mulroy, told the Mayo Advertiser before the meeting yesterday afternoon that: “At the moment it looks like it’ll be rejected here. It doesn’t really make sense when you look at it. I’ll be looking for more money for the area and I feel that will be supported across the board.”

In Claremorris, councillors have never before held so much sway when it comes to how funding will be spent at a local level. Previously such funding came from the central Mayo County Council fund.

At their meeting on Wednesday, the seven elected members of the new Claremorris Municipal District heard they were set to have at least €250,000 to divvy out in 2014 at their discretion and they adopted the item in principal, although some members, Cllr Patsy O’Brien in particular, expressed serious concern that the funding is not enough for the large municipal area.

This is the first time such discretionary funding has come to the Claremorris area.

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