Ah right, so that explains the urgency around the household tax.
And just in case you forgot what Big Phil said about its introduction back in July:
“It is internationally accepted that local services are administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges. Ireland is now moving along a path to a local and sustainable funding base for local government. Effective local governance requires strong local decision making. This new funding system for local government will continue to allow local authorities to prioritise expenditure to meet locally identified needs as part of the local authority’s budgetary process, making for a more efficient, accountable and effective funding system. This is local democracy in action.”
A wee google around tells me that Thomas Kinsella who tops this poll of self serving, is best known for using his casting vote to nominate Dana for the presidency. Paton who comes in at number 2 on the list, is a cheer leader for that most hopeless of events The Gathering.
An Irish Independent investigation reveals that our part-time politicians were paid an average of €31,600 each in salary, allowances, expenses and fees for sitting on a range of public bodies. Many of these councillors earned this cash on top of their day jobs.
However, others have made a full-time living out of what is supposed to be a part-time role. A major trawl of financial records held by almost 200 public bodies revealed very high – but legitimate – pay and expense packages claimed by some councillors.
The highest-earning councillor in the country received seven payments totalling €83,000 from five different bodies – his county council and four outside bodies, to which he was nominated by virtue of being a county councillor.
Read more here if you can stomach to.
Great stuff lads, mine is a tripple carvery, a pint and a half one. Make sure you keep the receipt.
Cllr Staunton said that in November 2010 the council unanimously passed a motion against the dissolving of town council and invited a delegation from the Department of Environment to meet with the town council; this invitation was not taken up. Cllr Staunton again reiterated this invitation “before it’s too late”.
Cllr Staunton said: “Don’t give me the money argument as it doesn’t stand up,” explaining that in the town’s budget of over €5 million, the expenditure of councillors is only one per cent. The councillor added: “In the event that the town council becomes extinct money paid in rates no longer will be ringfenced for Westport town to cater for facilities,” and instead will go “into the back hole of the Mayo County Council budget.”
Cllr Staunton said that at this late stage we should put a package together and say come and look at what we have done, “if we go down, we go down shouting.”
Cllr Brendan Mulroy said that he firmly believes that “we are going out of business and the town will suffer for it.”
Fine Gael councillor Christy Hyland said that the town council “is the closest tier of government to the people” and to get rid of town councils is “an attack on democracy”.
Cllr Keith Martin said that people in this town care about the town council which is evident in election times. Cllr Martin said that “this council has been a leader” and “we will not be a voice snuffed out easily.”
Cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr Ollie Gannon said that every council should be judged on its merits and he said that “we are letting the minister know that we are not taking this lying down”.
Cllr Tereasa McGuire said that Westport is one of the “most successful town councils” and if the town council goes there will be no voice for local people, which is the “real tragedy”.
Cllr Michael McLaughlin added that “radical reform” is needed for town councils, as some are just a talking shop. The Fine Gael councillor said that “councillors should be paid properly and given more powers or scrap the lot.”
CIRCUS ANIMALS are safe coming to Sligo for the foreseeable future.
Hopefully, they have no hang-ups as some strong things were said about them this week.
Fianna Fáil went walkabout before the vote, with neither of its two councillors, Rosaleen O’Grady and Jude Devins, present for the debate.
Cllr Arthur Gibbons wanted the Council to prevent any of its land being used when the circus comes to town.
However, Cllr Matt Lyons put in a stormer to champion the cause of the circus.
And get this — and this is rare — Cllr Declan Bree sat on the fence!
Room To Exercise
He was proud to put down such a Motion as times have changed.
Elephants were taken away from their mothers at a very young age and animals didn’t even have room to exercise when travelling with circuses.
Cllr Matt Lyons said ”I’ve a lot of humanity in my body but I don’t agree with this.”
”I’ve been to circuses and don’t agree animals are abused or ill-treated.
”If this Motion is passed we won’t be able to fish, hunt or anything.” Circus animals were treated better than those on farms. Dogs had been left hanging from gates.
Cllr Daniel McGarrigle said he came from an agricultural background. ”The next call will be to close zoos. If we go down this road where do we stop?
Cllr Marcella McGarry said she had listened to debates on radio. Two circus managers had invited people to come and check animal welfare and found nothing wrong.
Cllr Declan Bree said he didn’t have strong views either way if animals are treated subject to law.
Mayor David Cawley said he appreciated the sentiment in the Motion. But the Fairgreen was the only site affected and it didn’t have circuses anymore.
These were Irish businesses, he said, and subjected to regulation.
In reply, Cllr Gibbons said it was about sending out a message to ”stop this cruelty.”
The comparison with domestic and zoo animals was not fair, as those animals were born in that habitat, he said.
Other speakers included Cllr Veronica Cawley and Cllr Jim McGarry.
The vote to impose the ban on circuses using Borough Council property in Sligo resulted as follows:-
Cllr Arthur Gibbons
Cllr Chris MacManus
Cllr Matt Lyons
Cllr Marcella McGarry
Cllr Daniel McGarrigle
Mayor David Cawley
Cllr Veronica Cawley
Cllr Delan Bree
ABSENT FROM VOTE (2)
Cllr Rosaleen O’Grady
Cllr Jude Devins
THERE are no figures available for compliance with the household charge in Westport, though the overall rate for the county stands at around 69 per cent. Those who have not paid the €100 household charge as of yet will find they are now liable for €126, and this will rise to €127 from next week. That was the message from Westport Town Council last week, where councillors debated the much-maligned tax.
The council executive continued to insist that the charge must be paid if local authority services are to remain unaffected, but the debate spilled into the political domain, and there was disagreement among councillors on the issue.
Fine Fáil councillor Margaret Adams said that Environment Minister Phil Hogan had made a ‘hames’ of the whole household charge initiative, and she asked why no bills had been sent out, even to those that had not yet made payment.
Cllr Martin Keane became untypically irate and demanded to know what people ‘who just cannot afford to pay it’ are supposed to do. He had a swipe at Mayo County Council’s senior management, demanding to know what the money would be spent on, before answering his own question by stating, ‘the manager and officials off to the States, that’s what.’
Cllr Myles Staunton took umbrage at this and rebuked Cllr Keane, calling his words a ‘cheap shot’, while Cathaoirleach Ollie Gannon said it was not right to go down the road of criticising people that were not present. Cllr Staunton went on to say that he believed areas of the county that had paid more should not be punished in the same way as those that had paid less.
Town Manager Martin Keating said that the council had begun contacting some households in relation to the charge, where their databases had showed an outstanding liability. He said the household charge is a self-declaration collection and there are no waivers for it, though he said some people would be exempt from paying it. He said there are criteria and rules governing the charge and the council have staff to deal with queries on it.
CUTBACKS to the Local Government fund for County Waterford are not as severe as previously feared, however Minister Phil Hogan is still refusing to release the third quarterly allowance of €507,000 and will reduce the amount available in the final quarter if more home owners don’t stump up payment for the household charge.
The news was greeted by some relief at last week’s meeting of Waterford County Council, which came two weeks after councillors abandoned their meeting at the start of the month such was their fury at the possibility of the council losing €2m in funding.
After seeking clarification from Minister Phil Hogan, management at the County Council learned that the adjustment made to the General Purpose Grant payment in Quarter 3 is confirmed and will not be reviewed further. No reason has been provided for why this amount of money is being withheld.
Waterford County Manager Denis McCarthy said that this meant that the €507,000 due to them for the third quarter would not be handed over. In respect of the final quarter payment, Waterford County Council is still at risk of losing another €90,000.
The monies, which are to be paid in November, will not be affected if over 65% of people comply with the household charge. For county and city councils with compliance rates of between 60% and 65% a deduction of 0.5% of the initial General Purpose Allocation will be made, which will locally amount to €90,000. So far, 61 % have paid the charge in the County.
Mr McCarthy added that spending will be prioritised for areas deemed most in need, with county roads earmarked for works.
Cllr James Tobin said that no matter how many people pay the charge, Waterford would still be left short vital funding.
“We are not getting €507,000 back no matter what. That tells people out there that you were right. Even if they pay the county will be left short. Where is that money gone to? I can hazard a guess that it’s gone to O’Reilly’s big hole in the health service. It’s a disgrace. They can glamourise it anyway they like, we are still down €600,000.”
Cllr Michael J. O’Ryan said that even if there was 100% compliance at this stage the County would still be fined, while Cllr Brendan Mansfield labelled the whole thing a “farce” and said it was bullyboy tactics by the Minister when he encouraged councils to follow the lead of the council in Clare when it came to delaying student grants for those who had not paid the charge.
He said there was a lot of anger amongst people who had paid the charge out of fear only to find out that cuts are still to be made in the area.
“The knife has still gone in, not as deep as we thought, but to the value of €600,000. It’s gone in to bail out the bondholders,” he added.
A councillor who stood for Labour in the last election claimed at last week’s meeting of Longford County Council that the council had been forced into making cuts because the Government didn’t sell the household charge to the people.
“It’s a coward’s way out to try and make local authorities do all the work,” she said. “I think some of these beg the question as to why they (cuts) weren’t made in the past. If the big cuts have to be made then the people out there have got to know this. It’s using the councils to penalise the people because they (government) didn’t manage to sell this charge.”
She was speaking after councillors heard proposals for cuts in council spending totalling over €300,000.
Head of Finance Barry Lynch told the meeting that the reductions were necessary because of the Government’s decision to shave €330,000 from its Local Authority Grant allocation for the three month July to September period.
This, he said, was largely owing to the council’s ongoing battle in raising the county’s household charge collection rate which presently stands at 59 per cent.
Amomg the reductions earmarked for the chop include €91,500 across the finance, human resources and IT sectors.
A futher €34,000 may be trimmed from the council’s miscellaneous services division, a downsizing that includes cutbacks of €27,000 in coroners fees.
Other areas facing proposed cuts inlcude agriculture (€15,000 reduction), development promotion (€21,400) and environment (€80,000), the latter of which is expected to see €10,000 taken out of the council’s burial ground expenditure.
Equally, recreation and amenity sectors are included as part of the proposed cutbacks. A total of €65,000 is to be taken out of both areas as council chiefs attempt to balance its books. Almost €40,000 is expected to be drawn from contributions made to community and local committess with a further €20,000 coming by way of cuts to the council’s amenity works and library services budget.
Mr Lynch, in making the announcement at last week’s county council meeting, said the changes had been made with a view to avoiding more dramatic decisions affecting its frontline services.
THE abolition of town councils across the country could be announced as early as next Tuesday, it was claimed this week.
Cllr Pat O’Connell (FF) made the claim at Tuesday night’s meeting of Macroom Town Council, having attended a conference last week at which local government minister Phil Hogan gave a speech on the future of local authorities.
“From what I can gather, there is going to be reform but as to what kind he didn’t tell us. It seems to be that town councils will be abolished and replaced with municipal district councils,” Cllr O’Connell explained.
“If town councils go, Macroom will be dead. It will be a disaster for the town because it will be replaced by a municipal council with six or seven members for the entire Macroom electoral area, not the town,” he added.
Cllr Connie Foley (Ind) accused Minister Hogan of ‘ not knowing what he is doing.’
Mayor of Macroom Owen McCarthy (FF) said the issue was ‘ the single biggest challenge to come before the council.
“I am pleading with all members of the council to unite on this, we really need our TDs behind us. They have depended on our support in the past, this is our time,” he said.
ATHY town councillor Aoife Breslin has been called on to resign her position on the board of management of a local school by an Athy resident who represents a right wing Catholic group called Catholics United for the Faith.
Mr Anthony Murphy, who along with this wife Kim, publish The Catholic Voicenewspaper, said Cllr Breslin, who is a member of the Board of Management at Scoil Phadraig Naofa, should “consider her position and conclude that the only honourable thing to do is to step down from her position”.
He claimed her expressed views that gay people should be allowed to marry were “in conflict with the ethos of the school”.
The issue was raised by Mr Murphy in the wake of the meeting of Athy Town Council last Wednesday night when a motion calling for the council to support marriage equality was on the agenda. The motion was not actually discussed at the meeting as the council opted instead to pass a motion in support of the consitutional review. In fact it was Cllr Breslin’s abstaining on a vote that resulted in the original motion not being discussed.
Referring to information obtained in a Freedom of Information request, Cllr Durcan told a special budget meeting of Mayo County Council that County Manager Peter Hynes had claimed expenses in 2011 totalling €22,390. He said that the county manager was the only official to claim expenses over €20,000 while two council employees made claims over €15,000, 25 claimed over €10,000 and 255 claimed over €5,000. In total, the expense claims amounted to a staggering €3.2m for 2011.
Cllr Durcan also drew attention to a claim by one council employee for €35.45 following purchases in a Castlebar pub.
THE AVERAGE payment received by members of Wicklow County Council in 2011 was €32,818 while a total of €820,467 was paid out to 25 local representatives over the 12 month period.
While amounts received by County Councillors across the county varied, Fine Gael‘s Cllr. George Jones of Greystones recorded a total of €83,091 while party colleague Cllr. Irene Winters from Wicklow received the lowest figure of €24,747.
A smaller sum of €22,153 was also paid to Cllr. Gráinne McLoughlin of Greystones who was co-opted onto the Council in place of elected TD Simon Harris who received the sum of €4,050 in 2011 before he took up office in Dáil Éireann.
NORTH Wexford Councillor Michael Kinsella has defended his expenses claims record during 2011, after figures revealed he claimed the highest amount of expenses in Wexford at €50,891 for the year.
He also claimed the second highest amount for travelling expenses in the country, claiming €5,041 for several trips, including London, New York and Wales. The Councillor also had to defend attending a conference in Donegal, when a similarlythemed conference was held in Bunclody on the same weekend.
Labour Party Castlebar town councillor Harry Barrett was the only member of either Mayo County Council or Castlebar Town Council to oppose a notice of motion in relation to abortion put before both councils this week. Independent Cllr Frank Durcan who sits on both of the local authorities put forward a notice of motion to both councils stating “that the members resolve, in keeping with the will of the Irish people as emphatically expressed in the referendum of 1983, to oppose any form of legalisation of abortion under any circumstances”.
At Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council the motion was passed unanimously without a dissenting voice from any of the members. However when the motion came before Castlebar Town Council on Tuesday evening, Cllr Barrett expressed his opposition to the motion. He told the meeting that, “I have a major problem with this motion. In the A, B and C v Ireland case that was taken to the European Court of Justice in 2010, it was found that Irish law breached the human rights of C, who was a cancer patient and her life was under threat because of the pregnancy. There is also an expert group that is part of the programme for Government that will report on this soon.” The expert group was set up to see what action should be taken after the decision of the ECJ in 2010 and following the X-case from 1992.