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Councillors warn council not to ‘dip into’ their GMA fund


Anton McNulty

Mayo County Council have been warned by councillors to refrain from ‘dipping’ into their allocation of GMA funding in order to pay for capital projects.
Councillors in the West Mayo Municipal District were unanimous in their opposition to a suggestion by officials of Mayo County Council to ring-fence part of their €465,000 allocation of GMA (General Municipal Allocation) funding to pay for projects which receive government funding.
Manager of the municipal district, Padraic Walsh told yesterday’s monthly meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District that they received a circular regarding a grant for marine capital projects but the council will have to fund 25 percent as a local contribution, also known as matching funding.
He said the council were not be in a position to apply for funding as they did not have the matching funding and suggested to councillors that they put aside GMA money for such projects.
This suggestion was roundly rejected by Achill councillor Paul McNamara and others who said they would not be relinquish control of the GMA fund, which they can allocate at their discretion, to groups in their constituency.
“I get frustrated when I hear Padraic [Walsh] talk about matching funding and think you can dip into GMA funding to help support matching funding. We raised rates in the last budget which I was totally against … as far as I can see the ratepayer is benefiting from nothing from Mayo County Council and now you are telling us we should put aside some GMA funding to help fund capital projects. The GMA funding is to go around to the communities … and if we have to think of taking capital funding out of GMA money we are a sorrowful council,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil councillor was supported by Erris-based Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle who said the council were on a ‘downward slope’ if the council had to look for GMA funding to pay for projects.
Sinn Féin councillor Teresa Whelan added that the GMA fund was the only thing councillors had control over and she said she will be allocating her monies to communities.
Last year there was controversy over the allocation of GMA funding in the district after it was withheld until on-street parking charges were introduced in Westport. Cllr Brendan Mulroy said the council were now telling the councillors that they would be letting their county down if they did not do as the officials suggest.
Director of Services, Catherine McConnell, told the councillors that every new scheme required matching funding of at least 10 percent and asked councillors to ring-fence some of their money for it.
“It is better if the municipal district speaks with one voice rather than groups having to go around to individuals asking them to make a contribution. If some decisions were taken as a municipal body it would speak volumes on how we do our business. It is at the discretion of the members but I would strongly request that some element of funding be ring-fenced.
“Unfortunately the issue of matching funding won’t go away. We are putting it out early that some element of local contribution will be sought before projects are put in so we don’t ending up embarrassing the council by having to reject funding,” she said.
The councillors agreed to divide the GMA allocation of €465,000 equally between the seven councillors and allocate it at their discretion.