At the annual budget meeting of the council this week, the
majority of Councillors voted to adopt the budget as it was presented to us by
council management.

The budget is presented each year, which means things can (and likely will) change each year. Here’s a few snippets below.

Figures

Total spend for 2020 will be €255,755,400 (quarter of a
Billion). That’s an increase in spending of 5% on last year.

The council will get this money from a range of sources,
such as €118,807,400 from fees, charges and rents and the majority €136,948,000
will come from Local Property Tax and Commercial rates. In September
Councillors voted to reduce the LPT by the maximum allowable, which is 15%.
This means that there is almost €5 Million less discretionary money in this year’s
budget. Discretionary funding is money that Councillors can request specific
projects or initiatives to be undertaken by the Council.

How did I vote

I voted for the budget as presented by the management.
I voted for the budget because the extra social rents collected will be
ringfenced to be spent only on social housing and not diverted to other areas,
this was one of the conditions I made very clear before deciding to join the
ruling group last June. Rents have not been increased since the 1990s and our County
is still one of, if not the lowest rents in the Ireland.
I voted for the budget because it includes €1.5 million extra to prepare social
houses to be re-let faster, so we are not looking at boarded up houses while people
sleep in emergency accommodation.
I voted for the budget because it increases spending on road repairs, footpath repairs,
tree maintenance, grass cutting, parks, playgrounds, amenities and facilities.

In every budget there will be things we like and dislike.  I believe there is not a single Councillor who
can put their hand up and say they ever voted on a budget in which they did not
have to make very challenging choices. This budget is no different for me.

What’s it like being there

Since being elected in May 2019, people have asked me what
is it like?
After this budget process, I can safely say that it’s ugly, uncomfortable,
daunting, confusing and challenging. I have regularly compared the council
chamber to being the theatre of politics and the day to day work of asking
questions, building relationships and trying to get small wins for people as
the engine room where the real work happens.
I do hope that people will return to playing the ball and not the players, as a
local and experienced Councillor said to me often.

Closing words

In my closing words at the meeting I thanked the staff of
the Council for all the hard work they put in to compiling the budget,
crunching the numbers, checking and double checking. I also acknowledged that
the annual budget of the Council is for the entire County, not any one area and
certainly not for any Political Party or person and within all of this are
great challenges and compromises to be made. I spoke of how I came to this council
with the mandate to work with anyone necessary to achieve the things that
people asked me for while I canvassed and I believe that I have helped to
deliver some of those things in this budget.

My takeaway

The loudest thing for me after going through my first budget is that Councils and residents are being let down by central government.  We are being played off each other to distract from the real changes required at national level. National legislators and Government must adequately support and fund education, housing and local government and Councillors should not have to argue over what is, in the grand scheme of things, small money. That is the challenge for the next government, and within it, is also the challenge for this Council.

The budget can be read online here

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