THE clock is ticking for Waterford City and County Council. The council faces suspension if it cannot bridge a €1.3million gap in its budget by Thursday, December 12.
A plea for the Government to cough up the finance has fallen on deaf ears. Councillors met with John Paul Phelan, TD who is Minister of State with responsibility for local government. One councillor described the minister’s response as “a big fat No”.
The Government has already offered €2m to reduce the original deficit of €3.3m caused by a change in the way Irish Water pays rates.
“As expected our demands for more Government grant allocation to make up the €1.3m shortfall in the 2020 council budget went unheeded and met with a bit fat No,” said Cllr Eddie Mulligan.
The Fianna Fáil election candidate was critical of the alliance of Sinn Féin, Greens, Labour and Independent members who control the council.
€84m to Horse Racing Ireland and the Greyhound Racing Board
“We had previously been advised in writing that there would be no further allocation but the Sinn Féin-led pact used it as an excuse to turn up at last Friday’s budget meeting with their arms swinging and using their majority votes to defer the budget meeting, without even debate on possible solutions,” he said.
Another Fianna Fáil councillor warned that the council might decide to slash funding for major festivals to fill the budget gap. Councillor Eamon Quinlan was particularly critical of Sinn Féin, the largest party in the ruling group. He said Sinn Féin councillors had backed themselves into a corner by rejecting a propsoal for a five per cent increase in commercial rates while also rejecting cuts in services.
“Over the last five years, SF on the council have proposed and voted to cut the Festivals and Events budget several years in a row,” he said. “This is now worrying to the many local volunteer groups who hold festivals from Tallow to Dunmore East and have made Waterford a signature destination for strong event brands with national reach.”
€24m on an aquatic vanity project of ‘White Water Rafting’ for Dublin’s city centre
“Sinn Fein have been enemies of the festivals and have voted accordingly many times,” said Cllr Quinlan.
People Before Profit supported the stance of the ruling alliance and condemned “the contemptuous manner” in which councillors were dismissed by Mr Phelan.
“The definitive ‘No’ was particularly ironic in a week when the FG/FF confidence and supply government, including John Paul Phelan, alongside our own John Halligan, voted to give €84m to Horse Racing Ireland and the Greyhound Racing Board,” the party said in a statement which also contrasted Waterford’s problems with the decision of Dublin Council “to spend €24m on an aquatic vanity project of ‘White Water Rafting’ for Dublin’s city centre ISFC tax haven.”
The budget gap has been caused by a change in the way rates are paid on assets owned by Irish Water. They are no longer paid to the counties where properties are sited but divided among all local authorities in proportion to use, as is the way with other State utilities.