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.”
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.”
At this morning’s Louth County Council meeting Sinn Féin Councillor Alan Cassidy proposed a 15% reduction in the family home tax which would be the maximum reduction allowed. This move was supported by Sinn Féin and opposed by all the other parties.
Chief Executive Joan Martin pointed out that this area is one in which additional money could be raised.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Cassidy said “the maximum reduction would have given the people of the county something back. This government and the last one have had their hands in our pockets for too long. There are a lot of efficiencies that could be made in the day to day working of the Council which would result in savings.”
Speaking further Cllr Cassidy said “The Chief Executive talked about how this reduction would have left the budget short by €1.4 million but she neglected to say about the almost €3 million in interest that is being paid out on land loans which were purchased by the Council for social housing and are just left lying there. That €3million is taken out of our budget before we even start. And let’s not forget the fact that our motor tax money, for example, is being sent out of the County instead of being used to repair roads in Louth. ”
Other Louth County Councillors voted to leave the rate of the Local Property Tax unchanged for a further year.
Sinn Féin Councillor Imelda Munster has appealed to Louth County Councillors to support Sinn Féin’s call for the 15% reduction in Local Property Tax in order to give some relief and to ease the financial burden on taxpayers. The decision was deferred at today’s meeting until Friday.
Councillor Munster said “This year every cent of the Local Property Tax paid in Louth went on the setting up of Irish Water and in 2015 we will only receive 8.4 million euro, a reduction of almost 7 million euro on 2013 despite us being forced to pay this extra tax.”
“I put forward the motion to Louth County Council in order to ease the financial strain that working families are under and it is time that this government stopped going after the same people with their austerity taxes, especially when there are other options like bringing in a wealth tax instead. The public just can’t pay this tax on top of water charges which will take effect in just two weeks time with our first bills due in our doors the week after Christmas.”
Munster explained “having put forward the motion a long discussion took place and a Labour Party councillor who said he wasn’t in favour of giving the reduction to people, proposed we defer the meeting and the decision until this coming Friday the 19th. I am hoping that at least 15 of the 29 councillors will have the courage and the social conscience to back the Sinn Fein proposal for the maximum reduction on 15% this coming Friday. I would call on all Louth County Councillors to support this motion.”