Munster asks Taoiseach for Ministerial intervention over lack of accountability as LCC rejects budget

Speaking after Louth County Council’s rejection of Budget 2018, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to request that the Minister appoint a strong team to go to Louth to listen to concerns and to examine the dysfunctionality of the County Council.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Deputy Munster said:

“This day has been coming for a long time. The fact that 75% of members opposed the draft Budget should be a wake up call. It was a lack of accountability and transparency that led to this. There were many contributory issues, including the removal services such as the bring banks, no proper assets register, audits of house purchases never published, poor public services, poor amenities leaving parts of the county, especially Drogheda, badly neglected”.

In response to Deputy Munster raising the matter with the Taoiseach, he responded that he was aware of the matter. He outlined the various options that are available to the Minister, which are: the appointment of a Commissioner, a new election or the council may attempt to put another budget together. The Minister is currently examining the legal options with the Attorney General.

Deputy Munster said:

“It’s clear that the Minister needs to be made aware of the lack of accountability, transparency and poor service provision, and even a neglect of certain areas within Louth County Council which is felt by the elected members. The Minister needs to recognise that the rejection of the Budget is part of ongoing wider problems that need to be addressed.”

Cllr Flood: Reduction in Drogheda’s funding yet another slap in the face.

Sinn Féin Councillor Kenneth Flood has reacted angrily to the decision taken by the Chief Executive of Louth County Council to cut Drogheda’s Municipal district funding from €75,000 to just €60,000.

Cllr. Flood said “The Chief Executive stated that she took this decision because Councillors did not agree to increase the Local Property Tax (LPT) this year and she needed to balance the books. This is news to us.

“At the LPT Meeting the Chief Executive said she was seeking an increase in LPT to put it into the counties roads. We all know that hundreds of millions of our road taxes have been ploughed into the failed entity that is Irish Water instead of being spent on our roads. At no point was it stated that a consequence of not agreeing to a tax increase would mean a decrease in Drogheda’s Budget.”

Cllr Flood explained that “Councillors are excluded from formulating the budget. Not even the Economic Special Policy Committee has any meaningful input into the budgetary process. Yet, we are expected to rubber stamp any budget that is put before us without complaint.

“I have stated it before and I will state it again, that must change!

“The funding made available for each district, meagre as it is, has been used by councillors to fund various groups and projects throughout Drogheda. For the last two years the Sinn Féin team have pooled our allocations to make Drogheda a more disability friendly town.  This year we have helped fund various local groups and charities. Now our ability to assist Drogheda’s Groups and Infrastructure has been curtailed by an unfair and arbitrary decision taken by the Chief Executive.

“With Drogheda’s exclusion from the living cities initiative, and the inexplicable overlooking of Drogheda in the Draft National Planning Framework this reduction of the meagre funding made available to us is just another slap in the face.”

Finally Cllr Flood said “we did not accept the Chief Executive’s position on our budget and made our position clear to her. Drogheda councillors have actually passed a motion calling for an increase in our budget and we will continue to push for this right up until 20th of November when the Chief Executive will present the annual budget for Louth.”

 

Pearse McGeough Welcomes Proposed 50% for Housing Adaptations in SF Alternative Budget

Councillor Pearse McGeough has welcomed the provision of a 50% increase in Housing Adaptation Grants (HAGs) in Sinn Féin’s alternative Budget for 2018.

In June of this year, Cllr McGeough asked Louth County Council to apply for extra funding for this Grant scheme after it was announced that the Scheme was to be kept open all year round.  Each year a budget is allocated to this scheme which will adapt houses for the disabled or elderly.

Cllr McGeough said “Each year, the scheme opened, was flooded with applications and then closed again after a few short weeks. However, this year saw an extension to the submission period with the Scheme remaining open all year round. That has had the effect of citizens being left frustrated with the long periods of waiting time for these adaptations to take place.”

He said “I have a lady who is in her late 80’s who made a submission for a small but essential adaptation to her bathroom in 2016. She was marked ‘Priority 1’ which is categorising her as ‘urgent’. 2016 has gone, 2017 applications are in and this lady has now been informed that her work should be carried out in 2018.”

“There is no point in opening the Scheme all year round, processing and passing applications only to leave them sitting in a pile somewhere because there is no budget to carry out the works.”

“The applications for this particular Scheme are from some of the most vulnerable in our community. The scheme is intended to make daily life better for those who need a bit of extra help with their physical needs. This could be anything from a downstairs bathroom to a more major refurbishment of their home. These adaptations need to be carried out in a timely manner and waiting two years is wholly unacceptable by anyone’s standards.”

“I welcome Sinn Féin’s proposal that the allocation for this Grant Scheme be an extra 50%. We could perhaps clear the backlog and not leave our vulnerable citizens trapped in unsuitable accommodation.

For our full Alternative Budget please go to sinnfein.ie

Cllr Kenneth Flood Calls For Inclusion in Budget Process

Sinn Féin Councillor Kenneth Flood has called on the Chief Executive of Louth County Council to include Councillors in the budget process.

Cllr. Flood said “during the debate on deciding this year’s Local Property Tax (LPT), Sinn Féin again proposed a 15% reduction, the maximum allowed under the relevant legislation.”

The Chief Executive responded by demanding that if Sinn Féin were proposing any cut in the LPT then they should identify where in the budget it should come from.

Kenneth Flood said “In the pre-budget workshop I had asked questions on the cost to the council of contractors, consultants and third parties writing council policy documents, like the Community Safety Strategy document etc. I did not get that information from the executive. I appreciate there are times when the Council need to employ consultants from time to time but as it is public money being used then the Council is accountable to the public.”

“We in Sinn Féin are more than willing to examine the council’s proposed spending and if the Chief Executive afforded us the opportunity to review the proposed budget in detail, then I am certain that we can identify areas where savings can be made. The process needs to be more inclusive of Councillors from all parties.”

“The LPT is an unjust and regressive tax and we need to ease the burden on homeowners and give families a break.”

 

Pearse McGeough Seeks Budget Increase in Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme

At the end of last year, Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough welcomed the opening of the Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme (HAGS) for 2017. Each year a budget is allocated to this scheme which will adapt houses for the disabled or elderly.

Each year, the scheme opened, was flooded with applications and then closed again after a few short weeks. However, this year saw an extension to the submission period with the Scheme remaining open all year round.

Although welcoming the extension at the time, Cllr McGeough has since been left frustrated with the long periods of waiting time some of his constituents have been facing for these adaptations to take place.

He said “I have a lady who is in her late 80’s who made a submission for a small but essential adaptation to her bathroom in 2016. She was marked ‘Priority 1’ which is categorising her as ‘urgent’. 2016 has gone, 2017 applications are in and this lady has now been informed that her work should be carried out in 2018.”

“I raised it at the Ardee Municipal meeting and I reiterated my call at the Louth County Council this week, to apply to the Department for extra funding for this Scheme as there is not enough to meet the needs of Priority 1 cases and that is unacceptable. The Council have agreed to do so.”

“There is no point in opening the Scheme all year round, processing and passing applications only to leave them sitting in a pile somewhere because there is no budget to carry out the works.”

“The applications for this particular Scheme are from some of the most vulnerable in our community. The scheme is intended to make daily life better for those who need a bit of extra help with their physical needs. This could be anything from a downstairs bathroom to a more major refurbishment of their home. These adaptations need to be carried out in a timely manner and waiting two years is wholly unacceptable by anyone’s standards.”