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.”
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.
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.
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.
Administrative officer Mark McNerney said a three per cent gap or €206,000 hole in the local authority’s balance sheets for the first six months of this year was largely down to recouping monies from cash strapped businesses.
He did nonetheless raise hope some, or a sizeable percentage of that shortfall, might be tempered over the next six months by the setting up of carefully devised financial plans with firms.
“The reality is the gap is down to the problem we are having collecting rates and we are working on that.
“Businesses are engaging with us in setting up payment plans so hopefully that figure of €200,000 or so will be bridged somewhat,” he said.
Mr McNerney’s admission was made in response to queries made by Cllr Tony Flaherty as to the council’s worsening financial situation.
Outlining just how sudden the turnaround has been, Mr McNerney said just 12 months ago, the council had cash reserves of well over €80,000 to call upon.
“The knock on effect for Longford Town Council is we will have to make an adjustment of €95,000,” he said, when referring to expected reductions in central government funding. “The adopted budget (for 2012) is €7,042,880 and we have €3,739,814 spent. That’s 3 per cent above what it should be.
“The net effect of that is there is €206,688 of a deficit which is a very difficult decision to be in. When I compare that to the same period last year when I presented you with figures for the same period, we had a credit balance of €85,000. There is a variance there between the two periods of almost €292,000.”
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.
The Mayor of Thurles Cllr Michael Cleary (Fine Gael) has been accused of abusing his position following his refusal to take a vote on a motion of no confidence in his party colleague, Minister for Health James Reilly TD, at the monthly meeting of the Town Council this week.
The vote of no confidence had been proposed by Councillor Jim Ryan and seconded by Councillor David Doran who labelled the Minister “a disaster”. But, Mayor Cleary refused to hear the proposal and urged Thurles Town Clerk Mr Michael Ryan to ‘move on” with the agenda, much to the chagrin of the two councillors who felt that a legitimate proposal had been tabled and seconded.
Thurles Town Councillor Noel O’Dwyer has launched a stinging rebuke at top members of the executives of North Tipperary and Thurles Town Councils this week stating that “paying big money to preside over an ineptly delivered service in very questionable.”