WESTPORT Town Council confirmed their 2013 budget of €5,233,893 last week, with an adjustment of €90,000 sought by elected members. This was agreed by council management after brief deliberations, and the extra money was found by adjusting upwards the projected income from planning applications and car parking charges, while reducing the expenditure on items such as maintenance of parks, office costs, public lighting and capital costs associated with Westport Leisure Park.
There will be no increase to car parking charges, nor is the introduction of on-street parking charges on the agenda at the minute, rather the council are confident that they will generate more income from existing car parks in 2013.
In the main all nine councillors agreed with the budget, but Cathaoirleach Ollie Gannon outlined to the meeting what the Fine Gael majority were asking for in their recommendations. This was money for local agencies and organisations, mainly involved in various charitable endeavours, as well as €20,000 for the promotion of festivals and €25,000 for the provision of CCTV cameras for Westport. This can now be added to the €20,000 that was provided last year for a new security camera system for the town, but which was not spent.
The debate was again dominated by the proposed reform of local government, which if followed through with by the government, means that last Thursday’s agreement will have been the last ever annual budget passed by a town council in Westport.
Recalling that 2012 was a great year for Westport on many fronts, Town Manager Martin Keating said that the executives and staff in his office had adopted a positive outlook for the year ahead and in relation to the town’s potential income. However, he added that the five per cent reduction in central funding for town councils, the static payroll of local authority staff and irrecoverable rates (a figure set at €300,000 for 2013) remained the negatives. He predicted that 2013 will be a year of great change in the local government sector, but added that Westport Town Council would continue to put the town and its people first, and wouldn’t be distracted from doing so. Also this year, there should be significant advancements in relation to social projects and capital developments currently on the agenda, namely Westport Town Hall, the Quay Community Building and the new Civic Offices.
Westport Town Clerk Ann Moore also confirmed that a new Enterprise Centre has been identified in an empty premises on Altamont Street and grant approval has been received from Enterprise Ireland to fit it out. She further stated that interest has already been expressed from organisations looking to become tenants in the centre, while Dermott Langan added that 2012 had been a successful year for tourism and festivals in Westport, also revealing that there will be more festivals added to the list for 2013.
The council are also investigating the possibility of creating a Westport Town ‘APP’ for smart phones and tablet computers, which they feel would be a highly useful development for visitors, where they can get information, maps etc on the town at the touch of a button. This ‘moving with the times’ as it was described, was welcomed by the councillors.
Where the extra 90K went
€5,000 to the Westport/Aror Partnership,
€5,000 to the ISPCC
€5,000 - twinning of Westport and Plougastel 35 year celebrations.
€5,000 for mental health services,
€5,000 towards fighting local government reform,
€10,000 to WRFM Westport Radio,
€25,000 for the provsion of CCTV cameras for Westport
€20,000 for festival promotion in Westport.
€10,000 for St VIncent de Paul proposed by Cllr Margaret Adams
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