Councillor says plan to cut discretionary funding is a ‘pre-emptive strike’
A PROPOSAL by the executive of Mayo County Council to cut by half the allocation to the four municipal districts was described as a ‘pre-emptive strike’ which will be resisted at budget meetings.
A draft budgetary plan for the 2020 Mayo County Council Budget was forwarded to councillors last week and shows that the allocation for their General Municipal Allocation (GMA) will be cut in half. The total allocation proposed to the municipal districts for 2020 is €1.05 million compared to €2.1 million in the 2019 budget.
The funding is allocated to each of the four municipal districts in the county for the various councillors to spend as part of their discretionary GMA fund. It is proposed that the Claremorris/Swinford Municipal District will receive €350,000; with €245,000 to both the Castlebar and Westport/Belmullet Municipal Districts while Ballina Municipal District is due to receive €210,000.
The money is normally allocated to community groups for festivals and events and Westport Fine Gael councillor, Peter Flynn (pictured) claimed that halving the funding allocation will be a disaster for communities across the county.
“We have yet to have a workshop and or a budget meeting so we have received no details as to why they have decided to cut by 50 percent the allocation to the municipal districts as opposed to any other item in the budget,” the Westport councillor told The Mayo News.
“In Westport, the tidy towns employ two people over the summer from money allocated from the GMA fund and they work closely with volunteers and residents associations. The Town Hall also receive funding and if their budget is cut in half it will have an impact on their schedule of events. Various festivals will also be hugely impacted by GMA cuts and not just in Westport but throughout the county,” he said.
Mayo County Council’s overall budget for 2020 is just over €138 million but they currently have a deficit of €2.7 million and in September, councillors rejected an increase in the Local Property Tax to raise an extra €1.56 million to bridge the gap. Cllr Flynn said that reducing the GMA fund was not the way to reduce the deficit.
“The Council have a shortfall of about €3 million and I assume they saw the GMA as one way of cutting €1 million of the shortfall. However to go after community groups who benefit from the GMA is the most cynical of moves by the executive when everything in the Council’s budget of around €138 million needs to be examined. This is a pre-emptive strike by the executive against the councillors but there are ways to do this and it is not by affecting communities.”
Cllr Flynn claimed the reduction in the GMA fund also calls into question the rationale for the introduction of car-parking charges in Westport.
“Many people who bought into parking charges at the time felt it would generate extra revenue which will be ring-fenced for the town and the area. Now we face a scenario where the funding will be cut in half. There is so little investment in the municipal districts … every time we go to get a small job done we are told there is no money available,” he complained.
Councillors are due to meet next week to discuss budgets for their own municipal districts before they are due to discussing the adoption of a budget on Monday, November 25.
Cathaoirleach of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District Christy Hyland said the executive will have to go back to ‘the drawing board’ if they want the budget to be adopted.
“The budget has not been approved and if you look at the GMA budget it makes up only approximately 0.3 percent of the total council budget. If cuts have to be made in the budget then the executive will have to look elsewhere. All local authorities are strapped for cash due to no increase in the local government fund and the executive and councillors will have to sit down to work it out,” he said.