Third time lucky for council budget

Louth County Council finally adopted their draft budget late on Sunday evening following two failed attempts earlier in the week. Councillors had initially rejected the budget put forward by Chief Executive Joan Martin with the proposed 20c increase in pay parking the main bone of contention for a number of councillors.
Councillors had been told by Joan Martin on a number of occasions this year that the 2019 budget would be tough as there was a significant shortfall in the council’s funds. She said she anticipated making cuts of €1 million in discretionary areas such as funding for community groups, tidy towns and libraries. Her appeal to increase the Local Property Tax rate was also rejected by councillors.
Councillors were also told that they were legally obliged to pass a budget and if they failed to do so then the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy could potentially remove them from office.
The initial meeting took place three weeks ago and when asked to vote on the draft budget councillors rejected it by 19 votes to 7 with 26 out of 28 councillors voting on the issue.
Having initially rejected that budget councillors met up again last Wednesday but once again they failed to adopt the budget with just five councillors voting in favour of passing it. Nineteen councillors rejected it while three abstained from the vote.
Councillors met again on Sunday afternoon and after a lengthy debate and many arguments the budget was finally passed. After a vote the councillors were split on 14-14 but chairman Liam Reilly used his casting vote to pass the budget.
The main sticking point for councillors in Dundalk had been the proposal to hike pay parking rates up to €1.20 from €1. After much toing and froing councillors finally agreed to meet the council half way and rubber stamp a 10c increase which will bring the rate of Pay Parking to €1.10. Pay Parking in Drogheda will also be €1.10, a reduction of 10c.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Maria Doyle stated that the meeting had been fractious at times but noted that she along with the majority of councillor were happy that the pay parking rates didn’t increase by 20c.
“It was a very forthright meeting with both councillors and council officials expressing their views. We had rejected the budget twice before Sunday as we felt that it wasn’t fair and one of the main sticking points was the proposal to hike pay parking rates by 20c. With Brexit on the horizon I did not want to see that increase come in and in the end we managed to half the proposed hike.
“It’s been a tough budget to pass and unfortunately we can only look at a tiny portion of it to suggest changes and give our own ideas. Most of it is set in stone by law. Unfortunately Louth County Council are near the bottom of the list in the country for rate collection and rent and that has contributed to a severe shortfall in County funds,” stated Maria.

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