The following statement was issued to the media in Cork this morning, on behalf of Cork’s ‘for DEMOCRACY!’ group.
A serious issue arises from the weekend’s events in Cork that should concern everyone. A concerted effort was made by officials claiming to represent Cork City Council to stop the activities of the ‘for DEMOCRACY!’ group. The group have organised an Anti-Austerity / Pro-Democracy stall in Patrick’s Street every Saturday for nearly a year, distributing leaflets and speaking with the public.
On Saturday, in successive incidents, up to six individuals approached the group’s information table to demand that the leaflet distribution stop, also demanding that the group stop speaking with the public. Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, spokesperson for the group, said that “despite being advised that we were entitled to be on the street the officials demanded that we ‘move on’, they claimed authority from Cork City Council for doing so.”
At one stage the speaker at the stall was man-handled while addressing the public, at other stages the officials lined up in front of the stall, face to face with members of the group – invading personal space in a threatening manner.
Ó Cadhla said, “Thankfully the Gardaí came to the scene and after some discussion they advised the officials that we were acting within our rights and our work continued uninterrupted.”
Mr. Ó Cadhla says that the ‘for DEMOCRACY!’ group will be lodging an official complaint and is already in contact with City Hall in this regard.
Ó Cadhla said “apparently City Council decided that last Saturday was a ‘festive day’ and for ‘fun’, our likes were not wanted … street performance was organised for entertainment and public money spent on it.”
Diarmaid Ó Cadhla noted that “the incidents on Saturday follow a number of earlier attacks on our work against Austerity made by Councillors and Management at City Hall”. He continued, “whether these incidents are related or just some officials ‘going maverick’, it remains a most serious matter – either way we want clarification and an apology from City Council”.
Mr. Ó Cadhla asked “Why does City Council feel it should stop citizens discussing the lack of democracy in our country/city and the unjust imposition of policy on the people?”
He also asked “Why does City Council feel that the people of Cork need more ‘festive’ and ‘fun’ days while so many thousands of families are facing destitution?”
Given that the Constitutional role of Local Government is to provide a “forum for the democratic representation of local communities” why isn’t City Council providing such a forum for the people? rather than distract them with trivia and try to silence anyone who speaks out?
Diarmaid Ó Cadhla 086-3805005
Cork for DEMOCRACY! c/o Ionad an Phobail, 99 Sráid na Dúghlaise, Corcaigh.
Note: It is understood that the event organising was undertaken by a Dublin based company, Emergent Events, who were sponsored and assisted by Cork City Council
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.”
LOCAL AUTHORITIES will in time be given powers to set their own property tax rates in order to generate funds to support provision of services in their areas, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has said.
The development, announced by the Minister at the publication of a programme of local government reform, would give county councillors power to set the tax at a level that meets financial needs. This was the case under the domestic rates system that was abolished in 1977.
“Property tax will become more and more the source of income for local authority services to be funded,” said Mr Hogan. “If they are raising the money locally for service provision, they will have a say in how they spend it. Each local authority can have a different level of property tax in due course. The timing of that is a matter for Government.”
The tax, expected to be levied at an initial rate of 0.25 per cent of the property value, is to be announced in the December 6th budget and is likely to come into force in the middle of next year. The details of the levy, which is to be collected by the Revenue Commissioners, are yet to be approved by Cabinet.
Mr Hogan was speaking at the publication of Putting People First, a programme of local government reform which he said represented the most radical changes to local political structures since the 19th century.
The abolition of 80 town councils, a reduction in the number of local authorities to 31, and a proposal to reduce the number of elected councillors by 42 per cent to a maximum of 950, are among the measures set out in the plan.
It indicates that the role of elected councils should be extended to cover matters such as local economic development and the support of businesses. But it also states that the power of councillors to overturn the decisions of planning officials should be removed. Many of the changes outlined in the plan are to be in place for the 2014 local elections.
Phil Hogan‘s proposals would reduce the number of councillors from over 1,600 to 950
All 80 town councils around the country are to be abolished, and county councillors will instead have a role at district level.
Cork and Galway will retain city as well as county councils, while Dublin will keep its current four councils.
All of this will reduce the number of councillors from over 1,600 to 950.
The targeted voluntary redundancy scheme should see an estimated saving of €45m per year.
A directly elected Mayor for Dublin is still a possibility, but only after voters in the capital are consulted in a plebiscite to be held alongside the local elections in 2014.
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 significant surge in payment of the €100 Household Charge in North Tipperary in recent weeks has resulted in the lifting of a Government threat to further slash funding for local government services in the county.
During the summer Environment Minister Phil Hogan, noting that just over half of North Tipperary householders had paid the charge, threatened to cut the County Council’s Local Government Fund of €14.5 million by €1.5 million. Such a cut would have resulted in major cuts in local government services across the county.
But over the past six weeks or so a surge in payments saw a further 8 per cent of householders pay the charge, thereby removing the threat of the swinging cuts being imposed.
Two out of three householders in North Tipperary have now paid the new €100 charge, County Manager Joe MacGrath disclosed this week.
The manager said the council had thrown additional resources at the collection of the charge in a bid to get as much funding in as possible. The current figure of compliance is 66 percent.
Good news for the local council came on Friday last when the minister announced that local authorities where the compliance rate was at or above 65 percent would not be penalised with any further reductions in funding.
Mayor O’Meara said he had spoken to the County Manager Joe MacGrath and was assured that a €377,000 cut in funding imposed to date was “manageable”.
He said the manager Mr MacGrath had been successful in making savings through a number of other measures that would significantly reduce the impact of cuts already imposed in the Local Government Fund.
“That level of cut of €377,000 is a blow to us but we are able to carry it without any major effects on the people of North Tipperary,” said the Mayor.
He added: “The minister will not be coming back to us to make further cuts because he has given a commitment not to review funding allocations to council that have a compliance rate of 65 per cent or over.”
The minister has warned that councils who have failed to achieve that compliance threshold will have their funding reviewed in November.
via The Nenagh Guardian.
via The Nenagh Guardian.
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.
CLARE County Council’s decision to ask approximately 800 third-level maintenance grant applicants if their parents had paid the €100 Household Charge provoked a storm of local and national protest this week. The Union of Students of Ireland has warned it will initiate legal proceedings against any local authority that withholds a student grant over failure to provide evidence of the Household Charge payment.
Clare County Council, in a statement, said it has not, at any stage, indicated that grant payments would be withheld from applicants that have not paid the household charge. “Applicants who have completed forms and provided the necessary information will have their payments issued as expeditiously as possible. Applicants who do not provide the requested information will be requested to submit complete applications, which may result in delay,” according to the statement.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed Clare County Council is not entitled by law to reduce or withhold a portion of the third-level grant that is due as a result of the non-payment of the Household Charge.
He confirmed no money has been withheld by the council in respect of higher-education grants and noted it is entitled to secure as much information about the numbers who have paid the household charge as is required in law.
The council reiterated on Wednesday it was never its intention to delay or withhold the payment of third-level grants to second, third and fourth-year students, regardless of whether their parents had paid the Household Charge and merely initiated this measure as part of its “public awareness campaign” about the public services that are funded by the collection of money from the charge.
MORE than 10,000 Mayo homeowners face potential legal action after failing to pay the household charge. n July, Mayo County Council had been threatened with cuts of €2.57 million from the Local Government Fund (LGF) if it did not improve collection rates of the charge. At that stage, the collection rate in Mayo was 63 per cent, but county manager Peter Hynes told a special meeting of Mayo County Council that as of yesterday (Monday) the figure now stands at 68.5 per cent. He said that a cut to the LFG would be “catastrophic” and noted that €641,589 was already deducted from the third quarter payment due to the council.
Following meetings with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Minister Phil Hogan, the council have been told that if the collection rate reaches 75 to 80 per cent the Local Government Fund will be paid in full.