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Council used councillors’ kitty to fund own events


“WHAT IS THE POINT IN US BEING HERE?” Cllr Brendan Mulroy, Cathaoirleach of West Mayo Municipal District.

Mayo Day and St Patrick’s Day funding questioned by stunned councillors

Anton McNulty

MAYO County Council allocated funding from West Mayo councillors’ GMA funds for its own events – money that was ostensibly being withheld until the councillors agreed to introduce car-parking charges in Westport.
The revelation came out at a special draft 2019 budget meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District that was held yesterday (Monday) evening. Stunned councillors demanded answers from the executive as to why they were not informed of the allocation.
The meeting heard that funding was allocated at the start of year for Mayo Day celebrations in Westport as well as for St Patrick’s Day twinning celebrations. The allocation was done after the full amount of the councillors’ General Municipal Allocation (GMA) – worth €465,000 – was not made available to them due to their reluctance to introduce on-street car-parking charges in Westport. They were instead given a funding pool of €252,000.
Last month, another €200,000 of the fund was released to the councillors after they passed a motion to introduce on-street car-parking charges in Westport.

‘Very strange’
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, the Cathaoirleach of the West Mayo Municipal District, Cllr Brendan Mulroy expressed his surprise when informed of the County Council’s direct allocations to its own events, and questioned the transparency of such moves.
“If the council were allocating money when the councillors couldn’t, then we have a problem. I know people make decisions for whatever reasons, but we as councillors go through a process of having them passed at meetings – yet the executive can make a decision and not bring it before a meeting, and we only hear about it at the budget meeting for the following year.
“We were told that until we got ‘our house in order’ we wouldn’t have [the full] GMA for the people we represent. The GMA was taken and spent on these events without any co-operation or consultation with any members of the council. I find that very strange. We had no money for our communities or constituents and we were told to get our house in order and behind it all our GMA was being spent,” he said.
Erris-based councillor Gerry Coyle also expressed surprise that the Council had allocated money directly to its own projects, saying he knew of other projects that also needed to be supported but had to wait.
“What worries me is that some things got picked and others didn’t,” he said. He also asked whether money from the fund had been spent outside the West Mayo District.

‘Done in silence’
Director of Services, Catherine McConnell defended the allocation saying that relatively small sums were given to events and that all the money spent was done so in the West Mayo Municipal District.
“A very small amount was spent earlier in the year for time-constrained events that happened in this municipal district and [it] was spent to support the work this municipal district does. It was not handed out to groups. It would have looked very poor if this municipal district had no St Patrick’s Day twinning events and we would have had to refuse the visits of our twinning [partners],” she said.
Responding, Cllr Mulroy said that he and the other members had no problem with the allocations – the issue is how they were was carried out.
“I have to ask the question, what is the point in us being here if you are going to make the decision in the absence of us? To be honest, what is the point? It is not about [what events got  money], it was the way it was allocated. It was done in silence. If you brought it to a meeting, we would have no difficulty with it,” he said.

The members rejected the draft budgetary plan, which included the GMA allocation for 2019, after they were informed that the West Mayo Municipal District would receive less money than other municipal districts due to having a smaller population.
Cllr Michael Holmes said this was discriminatory against the West Mayo Municipal District, pointing out that it is the largest in the county but is losing out most on services. He was supported by Cllr Coyle, who said West Mayo is receiving all of the pain and none of the gain and that he was not going to support any funding allocation that is less than the funding received by the other municipal districts.