METROPOLITAN area councillors have been left furious after they were told they only get to spend 44% of a new €1.5m fund set up within the budget.
Following the merger, metropolitan councillors have been given a limited set of devolved powers within the overall budget, including spend on roads, tourism development, traffic management and playgrounds.
A pot of €1.5m to go to the four newly-created districts county-wide was given to council CEO Conn Murray, and he decided 44% of this - €670,000 - should be dedicated to the city. The balance goes to rural areas.
This is despite the fact the metropolitan area serves a population far in excess of Cappamore, Newcastle West and Adare combined, plus more than half the council come from the metro area.
It led to anger from city councillors, who want more than half the €1.5m dedicated to the city.
Cllr James Collins, Fianna Fail, said: “We are not looking for anything extra. We are looking for it to be divided out in terms of population and representation.”
Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan said: “It is obvious no-one is happy with this. The metropolitan area is losing out big time”.
Cllr Daniel Butler, Fine Gael, added: “If the overall fund was based on representation, it should be €780,000. There is a quite significant difference here.”
He highlighted what he saw as a “measly” allocation of €17,500 in discretionary spending on roads, saying: “Metropolitan traffic is far heavier than that in the county. This would only stretch to a couple of hundred metres of tarmac”.
However, he was told this money is only for special projects like traffic calming.
Fianna Fail’s Kieran O’Hanlon said this again highlighted a problem with metropolitan councillors meeting as one district.
“We have three areas which make their own decision on where funding is allocated. Yet in the metropolitan area, we are not even allowed our own individual area meetings,” he said.
In the past, members have been told there is no legislation in place for members in City East, West and North to meet separately, something Labour’s Frankie Daly described as “an insult”.
While 21 city members meet as a district, membership of the rural districts is only six or seven in each area.
Cllr Collins proposed an increase in the metropolitan fund to €750,000, a move seconded by his Fianna Fail colleague Shane Clifford.
Sinn Fein’s councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh went further, calling for €787,500, which accurately reflects the fact 52% of the population live in the metropolitan area.
But following these interventions, councillors were told they have no say on how much their area gets, a move which caused anger.
“The executive expected us to do as we are told and to nod this through, but I believe in democracy and will not vote in favour of a budget I do not approve of,” Cllr Ó Ceallaigh said, “We have listened to absolute rubbish for the last two hours, and then be told a decision has already been made.”
The other three electoral areas all agreed their allocations at separate meetings - and finance boss Tom Gilligan pointed this out.
But with metropolitan councillors holding a 21-19 majority on the new local authority, there have been indications they could even seek changes to the overall budget when it comes to council in December until they get a fairer share of the funding for the city. Unlike the decision on this spend, councillors have full power to amend the budget.
Councillors are to meet again in the coming week.