BUDGETING Catherine McConnell, Director of Services at Mayo County Council. Pic: Alison Laredo
THE loss in revenue generated from car-parking charges and commercial rates is expected to result in cuts to councillors GMA fund for 2020.
Mayo County Councillors passed their €147 million 2020 budget in December which saw commercial rates increase by 4 percent but the agreement included a caveat that there be no increase in rates in 2021 and the General Municipal Allocation (GMA) would remain at €2.1 million and be ring-fenced for 2020 and 2021.
The GMA is largely funded from car parking charges throughout the county and allocated to community groups, clubs and organisations in the four municipal districts. The deadline for applications for the GMA grant was on March 6 but the grant is expected to be significantly reduced in light of the loss of revenue due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The carparks around the county have by and large been empty since the introduction of the restrictions and there is no traffic wardens to police parking as they have been placed on other duties within the council.
Mayo County Council Director of Services, Catherine McConnell told The Mayo News that while the council’s income will be reduced it was too early to comment on potential budget cuts.
“It is too soon to make a call on anything. We have to establish the loss of income across all income streams including parking. All budgets will have to be looked at for this year ... a budget [for 2020] was passed but that was based on income which is unlikely to be achieved,” she said.
Ms McConnell added that until local authorities get clarity from central government on the level of funding they are likely to receive, the council will not be able to look at making adjustments to its own budget.
Last year, Mayo County Council had proposed to cut funding to the GMA in half but this proposal was rejected out of hand by councillors. Independent councillor Richard Finn has said he would oppose any cuts to the council’s budget including cuts to the GMA.
“It is up to the government to fund county councils and county councils have been underfunded for the last ten or 12 years. We will not be taking any cuts in relation to the GMA. We have our budget drawn up for this year and we will face into next year and see what the story is,” he said.
Westport-based Independent councillor Christy Hyland said he expects local authorities will be ‘rescued’ by the government but also fears that cuts will have to be made to the GMA. He said the likelihood is that festivals who avail of GMA will not be able to go ahead this summer, which he said will be a big blow to local economies.
“It is looking like we will have no outdoor events or festivals this summer which will be a huge hit to the local economy and to people’s lives because they enjoy going to these festivals.
“We are looking at a situation where a number of these festivals will be cancelled [due to Covid-19 restrictions]. It is going to be a major financial hit on the economy of west Mayo.
“The part-time work won’t be there this summer and that is going to hit young students trying to put themselves through college. There will be a huge finacial strain on the people this summer,” said Cllr Hyland.