Councillors angry at lack of spending power

The size of the €7.9 million budget for the Ballina Municipal District for the year was a issue of contention for all the elected members at the February meeting of the municipal district this week. The budget was adopted by the members, but with a number of them stating their reservations about the size of the budget.

Independent councillor Gerry Ginty told the meeting: “We’ve no choice but to adopt the figures as presented to us. The first thing I’ll say is that, I personally think that myself and other councillors were probably remiss at Mayo County Council for what was presented to us, and we accepted and we probably shouldn’t have accepted it. We struggled a bit and got a bit extra but we didn’t get near enough, and the chickens have come home to roost about the abolition of town councils. I can’t let this go without saying that. Some parts of this council will not suffer because of it, but Ballina will and suffer greatly.

He continued: “I know come the next budget we will have to be much more resolute in demanding that the monies that are available to the Ballina area will be increased dramatically. It’s a scandal this year and it never should have happened, and the people of this town are the people who are going to suffer because of it.

Cllr Neil Cruise told the meeting: “I agree with some of the comments, we’re going to have to fight our corner a bit more in the future.” While Cllr Annie Maye Reape said: “I agree with the sentiments, but if the money’s not there what do you do. We’re not getting what we should be getting and that’s the reality. We can shout as loud as you want, but when the money is not there what can we do, that’s the reality.”

Cllr Michael Loftus told the meeting: “I agree with everything that was said, but I’m looking forward to next year and this has to be the basis to look for more funding in next year.” Cllr John O’Hara added: “We decided as a county council and we accepted the budget, so we’re probably all to blame for sure, it’s a lesson to be learned. We should have looked for more money as a municipal district and I’ll back up the rest of the councillors on that.”

Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly added: “As a councillor who adopted and supported the budget, I take full responsibility for what’s in it. There is nothing in the new Local Government Reform Act that affects the financial situation we are in today. The decision made to adopt the budget was our own fault, and I am as much to blame as anybody else, possibly more so being a whip on one side of the house. I have no hesitation in saying that what we have in the Local Government Reform Act is that we have enhanced responsibility for local government at local level, we have been given additional functionality if we want to use that. If we want to we can. It’s my belief, not entirely, but we can get close to the municipal districts getting close to being like a large town council, not entirely, but very similar and the level of services could be the same, and not just for the town of Ballina but for people across the district. But if we want to do so.

“We are responsible for the budget, the 30 members of Mayo County Council are, I’ve no problem with saying that and if the people want to ring me up and complain about it, I’ve no problem with that.”

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