A notice of motion by independent Ballina Municipal District councillor Gerry Ginty, calling for the restoration of town councils or to give the municipal districts the authority to strike their own rate and ensure that the money collected remain in the local area received support and some criticism at this week’s districts meeting.
Cllr Ginty said at the meeting: “A lot of our deliberations today [over the general municipal allocation] have proved how good town councils were in the past. Anyone with a bit of cop on would know that in the past town councils were good value for money, they didn’t run up massive debt, there was a huge amount of works done in their areas, that never will be done again under the current set up. Look around the town at any of the parks, or the laneways that were cleaned up, the car parks that were provided, all the works that will be done, they will never, ever, be done again in this town. If the minister doesn’t consider restoring town councils, at least if the municipal district councils were run as former town councils were, and given full powers the same as the town councils had, where you could strike a rate and the money raised in this district would be spent in this district, it would be a simple solution.” There was support for the idea from Fianna Fáil councillor Annie May Reape and Fine Gael councillor John O’Hara. However, Fine Gael councillor Jarlath Munnelly did not support the motion, saying: “I don’t support the motion, the reason I don’t support it is firstly I don’t support the restoration of town councils, it’s nothing against town councils, they were a very effective form of government for the people who lived in the area, but for the people who lived a mile away it was a different regime and I think that under the reform of local government, that the Ballina Municipal District for the first time as an authority represents Ballina and its hinterland and the people right across that hinterland are being treated all the same for the first time.
“The second part of the motion, the powers are already there, we have the powers to spend the money where we see fit. We could have allocated as much money as we wanted to, but we chose not to because it wasn’t in our budget. In the new local government reforms it’s the first time we’ve had a general municipal allocation, either for the town or county councils. The towns in practice did, but the point I’m making is we set that rate. We set that level ourselves and there’s no point blaming someone else for this, we set it ourselves. We could, if we wanted to ring-fence the money in this area if we wanted to and to increase the money on the services, it’s up to the elected members.”
Cllr Ginty responded saying: “What Cllr Munnelly is proposing will never happen, because in Mayo County Council the 30 councillors when they get together will never approve us getting the money that was raised in this area to be spent in this area. Cllr Munnelly is just opposing it because it was part of Fine Gael strategy, but sometimes you do something and see it’s not working and you change them. We are eight members of Mayo County Council, but when we get to Castlebar Fine Gael will take on their position, Fianna Fáil theirs, and the Independents and others theirs.”