AN Achill councillor has claimed that councillors in rural areas will not be able to justify their constituents paying property tax or rates because of the lack of services they receive from the council.
Cllr Paul McNamara made the comments at last week’s monthly meeting of the Westport-Bemullet Municipal District which heard that a month after a road in Erris was washed away, repair work has yet to be carried out because Mayo County Council has not got the funding to fix it.
The lack of money for the municipal district led some councillors to ask where all the money generated from rates and property tax was going. Cllr McNamara commented that it was getting to a stage where people would stop paying their property tax or rates.
“Come down to Belmullet and Achill and when somebody asks ‘well I am paying property tax and rates but what are we getting for it?’” he said to Director of Services Catherine McConnell.
Cllr McNamara added: “We will enter into a situation where people will say, ‘do you know what, I am not paying rates or property tax because we are not getting anything for it’. I say those words very lightly but that is the situation we will get into. Do we tell those who pay property tax or rates, don’t pay no more because what services are we getting for it?”
His comments were described as ‘a very damaging thing to say’ by Ms McConnell but Cllr McNamara defended his comments, saying that his constituents were asking him on a daily basis what they were getting for the money they are paying their rates or property tax.
No funding available
Earlier, Cllr Coyle had said that people affected by heavy rain in August which washed parts of roads away were asking when roads would be fixed. He said every time he asked for funding he was told there was none available.
“What is going on the west and in this area? This is a time when we never made more contributions … we have €3.3 million from the gas and we don’t have money to cut the grass or emergency money to fix the roads which were washed away,” he said.
Cllr Coyle was told by Padraig Walsh, Head of the Municipal District, that the council had applied for funding and were awaiting to see if they were successful. The funding for six damaged roads in the area was subsequently approved later in the week.
Other councillors also questioned where money raised in the municipal district was going and why funding was not available for emergency works.
Ms McConnell told the councillors that of the €139 million it costs to run the council, €33 million comes from rates and €19 million from Local Property Tax.
“Money is raised across the county and put in a county pot and budget allocations are made. It is your budget, you decide how it gets spent but we cannot at the drop of a hat decide to take €10-15-20,000 and spend it on something which hasn’t an allocation on it. That is not how the council does its business,” she told them.