Louth County Council have passed their budget for 2018 at the second time of asking – and in doing so have averted a potential dissolution of the council itself.
At a specially convened meeting on Thursday night, councillors voted in the local authorities budget proposals by 16 votes to 10.
All eight present Sinn Fein councillors voted against the budget while Independent councillors Maeve Yore and Kevin Callan also voted against.
The decision – coming after a 21-7 vote against the budget first time out – means the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy does not not have to decide whether or not to disband the council altogether.
The first vote had led to the possibility of – for the first time in history – councillors from Louth County Council risking having their statutory powers removed and being removed from office. As per the Local Government Act, if councillors fail to adopt a council budget, they risk having their statutory powers removed.
Ardee Municipal District councillors Liam Reilly (Fianna Fail) and Jim Tenanty (Independent) who voted against the budget at the original meeting 10 days earlier, this time voted in favour of passing the plan.
They joined Fine Gael duo Dolores Minogue and Colm Markey in doing so. The two Sinn Fein councillors based in the Ardee & Mid-Louth area – Tom Cunningham and Pearse McGeough – were among their party representatives who voted against the budget.
Tenanty had originally voted against the budget due to Louth County Council’s plans to raise the commercial rates in Ardee and the county area by €1 – from €57 to €58. There were no plans to implement similar rises in Drogheda or Dundalk.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie, Tenanty confirmed he received no support from other councillors as he rallied against the rates rise.
“I got no support for reduction on rates,” he said. “So, I voted for it. She [the Chief Executive Joan Martin] wasn’t going to find money for rates. She asked me to find it but I wasn’t going to cut community funds such as Tidy Towns.”
It was proposed at the meeting that a sub-committee of councillors – made of party whips in the council – be set up, acting a conduit between the wider council and the executive. They would meet with the executive and liase with them in relation to councillor grievances such as communications with officials and customer care.
“They acknowledge there is a problem,” Tenanty said. “This is a compromise from them. It’s a function of the council that we can set up this committee. It’s a going forward process with the council.
“It’s for the betterment of the county – rather than the officials and councillors,” he added. The matter is to be brought before councillors at the December meeting of Louth County Council.
Speaking on Twitter, Green Party councillor Mark Deary said, “The Buget barely changed, but the politics did.” The local authority did agree to providing extra money to go towards homelessness and social care charities, funds which will be distributed to the three Municipal Districts.
Councillors used the first budget meeting on Monday November 20th meeting for 2018 to air their continued and sustained grievances with the management of the council. Tenanty said that vote was “a vote against the top table” and represented the “total disillusionment” councillors have. “There is a negativity towards the councillors, we have no say,” Tenanty said.
Drogheda councillors, including Labour’s Paul Bell and Independent Kevin Callan, voted against the budget after the council proposed reducing their annual €75,000 by €15,000 – to €60,000. Callan also said he wanted the local authority to restore plastic recycling collections in the county.
This time around, Callan voted against the budget once again. Bell voted for it.
How the Louth CoCo councillors voted
- FOR BUDGET (16) – Pio Smith, Paul Bell (Labour), Dolores Minogue, Colm Markey, Maria Doyle, Richie Culhane, Oliver Tully, John McGahon (all Fine Gael), Jim Tenanty, Frank Godfrey (Non-Party), Liam Reilly, Thomas Byrne, Conor Keelan, Peter Savage (all Fianna Fail), Marianne Butler, Mark Dearey (both Green Party)
- AGAINST BUDGET (10) – Tom Cunningham, Pearse McGeough, David Saurin, Kenneth Flood, Edel Corrigan, Anne Campbell, Ruairi O’Murchu, Tomas Sharkey (all Sinn Fein), Kevin Callan, Maeve Yore (Non Party)
The draft 2018 Budget – which has been amended slighty – is available to view on the Louth County Council website.