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Councillors set for Thursday budget showdown

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County Hall, Dundalk photographed in September 2018. Photo Credit: Barry Landy/LouthNow.ie.
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This article originally appeared on ThisIsArdee.ie

Louth County Council have until Sunday December 3rd to agree a budget for 2018, councillors have been told.

Eight days ago, Louth County Council councillors voted down the new budget brought before them by a vote of 21 to seven. One councillor was absent.

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It was understood then that meant a decision on the matter was transferred to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, who could either allow more time to agree a budget or appoint a Special Commissioner to replace the councillors.

However, it has since emerged that the local authority retains a 14-day period from the initial vote to come to a resolution. Only then will the matter be put into the hands of the Minister, with the council facing the prospect of being disbanded.

That 14 day grace period expires this coming Sunday, December 3rd. The council have told representatives that the council is ‘obliged under the Local Government Act 2001 to meet their statuatory obligation to adopt the draft budget with or without amendment at a budget meeting.’

Thursday’s meeting will likely represent a last ditch attempt to reach a positive outcome – but ThisIsArdee.ie understands high level council officials are positive of their budget passing.

Of 28 councillors present, 21 voted against the new budget as presented to them by the council. Just seven – six Fine Gael councillors and one Labour representative, Pio Smith – voted for it. Four Ardee Municipal District councillors voted against the budget, with just two opting for.

Louth CoCo cathaoirleach Colm Markey joined his party colleague Dolores Minogue in voting in favour of the budget. Tenanty, along with Sinn Fein duo Pearse McGeough and Tom Cunningham voted against it, as did Liam Reilly. Fianna Fail’s Dundalk-based councillor Emma Coffey was absent.

The issue was put to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dail late last week. Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster, formerly a Louth County councillor herself said, “This is a wake up call that Louth County Council is dysfunctional.

“There are poor public services and amenities are being removed. It is a lack of accountability and transparency that has led to this situation.”

The Taoiseach confirmed Minister Murphy was aware of the situation  and said Minister of State John Paul Phelan TD was looking the issue from a legal point of view, liaising with the Attorney General.

ThisIsArdee.ie spoke to several councillors about the budget vote last week.

“There’s elements of the budget that I don’t agree with and I have issues with some of the budget but I can have a mature conversation and come to a resolution with officials and the chief executive,” Minogue said.

“I support footpaths, roads, Tidy Towns, libraries. We’re local politicians and we’re voted in on a democratic process to work for the constituents.”

Jim Tenanty said, “There’s total disillusionment. Councillors have no say. It’s hitting back against negativity that is shown towards councillors.

“Council officials are unresponsive to queries. This is a vote against the top table. I, personally, couldn’t see the rates increased. It’s not fair, people can’t afford to pay. I voted against the Budget on that basis.

“Sinn Fein’s Pearse McGeough – who along with his party colleagues votes down the budget annually – told ThisIsArdee.ie, “I’m standing up for the people in this county and I’m not ashamed to do it either, regardless of the consequences.”

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