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Councillors’ discretionary fund questioned

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QUESTIONED PROCESS Cllr Peter Flynn.

Clear procedures needed for GMA allocations to clubs and events – Cllr Flynn

Áine Ryan

TRANSPARENCY and procedures around funding by councillors for local organisations and festivals through the General Municipal Allocation (GMA) must be prioritised and included for debate on the agenda of the September meeting of West Mayo Municipal District. That was the view of Fine Gael’s Cllr Peter Flynn at the district’s inaugural meeting last week.
Flynn raised concerns about information he ‘had received’ that indicated that a number of organisations received funding despite ‘not having an application submitted on time’, as well as the fact that ‘there was no basis for prioritising applications and all was allocated purely at the whim of individual councillors’.
“Reading Facebook posts from councillors over the last number of months you would easily be led to believe that it was councillors themselves who were paying out this money. The reality is that this is money that is coming from people paying their local property tax, rates, parking charges and council rents. Under the current process it is impossible for organisations to plan for the year ahead as they just don’t know until too late in the year if they are going to receive support from the council.”
Speaking to The Mayo News afterward the meeting, Cllr Flynn (pictured) reiterated the fact that since he had been elected last month, he had received requests ‘from four different festival and event committees’ each of which wanted to know if it could count on the council for support next year, as plan needs to happen now.
“These are committees who are working on a voluntary basis, and it isn’t right that they have to chase individual councillors to get support for whatever group they are involved with. In my view, we should be making it a transparent, timely and fair process where applications are determined well in advance of the year ahead, and it is clear for everyone to see the community and strategic benefit of supporting the organisers,” Cllr Flynn said.
Cllr Brendan Mulroy said that he believed the process worked very well, and that instead of giving clubs and organisations hundreds of euros it was much more beneficial to give them one-off payments of €5,000 plus, where such funding would make a significant difference.
“There are so many [bureaucratic] hoops for the orgnaisations to jump through, there are no groups getting money that are not legitimate,” Cllr Mulroy said.
Achill’s Cllr Paul McNamara also gave the thumbs-up to the process, reminding the meeting that last year’s delays related directly to the row with the executive over parking charges in Westport.  
West Mayo Municipal District head Padraig Walsh said: “We are open to a review of how the GMA works and can bring forward proposals.”