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Councillors agree to ‘spend way out of recession’

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’WE HAVE TO MAINTAIN FINANCIAL VIABILITY’ Acting Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, Peter Duggan. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Anton McNulty

Mayo County Councillors have agreed to a new €159 million budget, acknowledging that the council is expected to ‘spend its way out of this recession’.
Members of Mayo County Council unanimously agreed to the new €159 million budget at yesterday’s annual budget meeting – an €11 million increase on this year’s budget. There will be no change to the commercial rate, and councillors’ General Municipal Allocation will also remain at €2.1 million for the year.
While the council finances were hit hard by the Covid crisis during the year, the council executive was able to present the biggest budget since 2014 – an increase of 7.4 percent on last year.
This was largely thanks to Government supports, which will make up a full 41 percent of the budget’s income, including €8,627,252 in commercial rates rebate approved last week, and a 10 percent increase in the Local Property Tax, which was approved in September.
The budget was largely welcomed by all groupings in Mayo County Council, where it was described as progressive and centred around the needs of the people of the county.
Late amendments to the budget were agreed before it was formally passed. These included financial support of €150,000 towards Ireland West Ireland Knock; €50,000 towards mental health and wellbeing; €50,000 for matching funding in tourism; and €30,000 towards supporting GMIT.

Local supports
Outlining the draft budget, acting Chief Executive Peter Duggan explained that it was about maintaining services in the county and providing supports to local business and community.
“Looking to the year ahead, the focus of this budget can be summarised as being about people and place. The main areas of focus for 2021 will be primarily to maintain the services that we deliver at the optimal level. To do that we have to maintain financial viability, and there is support for local business and communities. We have to enable ourselves to avail of the maximum grant funding which will come our way to kick-start the local economy and maximise inward investment,” said Mr Duggan.
He added that without Government support they would be facing a ‘very, very different budget’.
Welcoming the budget, Fianna Fáil whip, Cllr Damien Ryan said that the difficult decision to increase the Local Property Tax was looked on favourably by central government, and that as a result Mayo County Council will be ‘shovel ready’ to begin projects once there is an upturn in the economy.
“This is a progressive budget and identifies key areas for investment and it targets and is specific to try to spend our way out of this recession. There is no doubt that in the dark place we are currently in, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The approach in this budget is the right approach, and is the way the county needs to be taken.
“A budget of €159 million is achievable and ambitious and certainly will take the county in the right direction,” he said.
‘Stronger position’
There were no alternative amendments to the draft budget, with Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn pointing out that 2020 had been a difficult year and it was not the time for ‘playing politics’.
He acknowledged the work of Mr Duggan and Director of Services Tom Gilligan in presenting the draft budget, saying that it gives a good picture of where the council is going and it is not ‘about spin and soundbites’.
“This is a document of substance. [It speaks] of what is important to community and businesses and most importantly it recognises the input of councillors.
“We have all come through a massive 2020, but when you compare where Mayo County Council is now compared to where we were last year, I honestly believe we are in a way stronger position and we are better equipped for the years ahead.”