A draft budget of €117.6m has been passed by elected officials of Clare County Council.
Over €30m is being assigned to road transport and safety in the county as part of the Budget. Housing and building requires €18,657,083 while a further breakdown of the costs sees €17m for Development Management, €14m for Environmental Services, €12m for Water Services, elsewhere a total of €10,481,626 is earmarked for Recreation and Amenity while €787,967 is towards Agriculture, Education, Health and Welfare. A further €12m is set aside for Miscellaneous Services, this includes administration of rates, coroner expenses, operation of markets, casual trading, motor taxation and civic leadership. An extra €6m is available in the 2019 budget.
An income of €33m is forecast by the local authority next year from goods and services. This will arise from their Irish Water Income (€10m), rents from houses (€8m) and recreation/amenity/culture (€7m). For grants and subsidies, they will take in almost €34,975,416.
At the outset of the meeting, Council CEO, Pat Dowling said, “Our budget represents another step in our journey of reinvigoration. Our annual budgetary process has always been and continues to be about finding a balance. We want to be innovative and bold in our approach. New approaches are going to be needed to promote development of economy in towns, villages. Our financial standing though limited puts us in a unique position. We must remain close to our communities, we must work in new ways and retain welfare for our citizens”.
“I want to assure you, the executive and all staff are up to the task, they are committed to the county and are exemplary in their dedication to their duties, current balances in G.M.A. will be expended to the best of our ability”, he added. “While we must be ambitious, expansionary, reformist in our approach we must exercise financial prudence. For 25 years, the Council carried a deficit, at height this was €9m. In 2016 we returned slight surplus and are on target to return balance, I do not intend to return to old ways”.
There is a reduction of €300,000 from the General Municipal Allocation (G.M.A.) each Municipal District has €75,000 less to spend in this regard. Cllr PJ Kelly hit out at the proposal, “I’m here many moons and it is the first time I’ve saw such a daring attack on rural Clare, daring I say. If it’s only pittens why do it? Surprised with the CEO, he flew the flag of rural development but he’s offside on this one”.
Cllr Kelly requested for savings of 0.00246 percent to be introduced to all programmes within the Council so that the G.M.A. could be retained. His call for an amendment was denied by Cathaoirleach Michael Begley, “There’s a significant list of items that it cannot be applied to, that requested motion can’t be carried out if it were passed. It is not an amendment if you read standing orders”.
Fine Gael’s Joe Cooney proposed that a vote be taken to approve the budget and he was seconded by Fianna Fáil’s Tom McNamara. “We’re all well aware what G.M.A. funding has done for this county over the last years”, Cooney declared.
Eighteen councillors voted in favour of the budget with Cllr PJ Kelly, Cllr Ian Lynch, Cllr Christy Curtin and Cllr Johnny Flynn voting against the proposal. Both Cllr James Breen and Cllr Mary Howard abstained from voting while Cllr Tony O’Brien, Cllr Michael Hillery, Cllr Bill Slattery and Cllr Paul Murphy were not present at the time.