COUNCILLORS from the Adare Rathkeale area are to seek legal advice on how their local budget or General Municipal Allocation (GMA) is divided up and spent. The six councillors dug in their heels at a meeting of the Adare Rathkeale municipal district last week and refused to adopt the detailed breakdown of their 2015 GMA budget of €275,000.
They had agreed the overall sum and the headings, they contended , but argued they had never consented to the detailed allocations put before them by finance officer, Tom Gilligan. Moreover, the councillors were adamant they had full discretionary powers over the entire GMA.
Now they have demanded a special meeting to thrash out the details under the different headings of Local Roads, €50,000; Tourism €65,000; Parks, playgrounds and pitches, €40,000; Community Initiatives €20,000 and Special Projects €100,000.
In the list put before them by Mr Gilligan, the only monies not assigned were the €100,000 for special projects of strategic merit and councillors agreed to give €50,000 to the Foynes Air Show.
From the beginning, the GMA item was fractious as the Municipal District chairman, Cllr Tom Neville sought to clarify whether the power to decide on the GMA lay with management, as an executive function, or with councillors as a reserved function. It is, Mr Gilligan told him, a reserved function.
“We have been sold a pup,” Cllr Emmett O’Brien said. “We were told we would have a fund and we would have full discretion albeit within certain parameters. What we have now is a fait accompli. I don’t like being like being misled. It is a show of contempt to the people of Adare Rathkeale. We should have discretion. It is frankly unacceptable.”
Councillors had expected there would be more “engagement” on the detail, Cllr Kevin Sheahan (FF) argued. “We can’t adopt it as it is presented,” he said. And he proposed a special meeting to try and find a resolution, which he was sure could be done.
Cllr Stephen Keary (FG) condemned the matter as a “disgrace”. “It is a direct attempt to remove devolved powers from us,” he said. “It is a form of dictatorship.”
The figures had been “delivered by the executive to us for us to rubber stamp, pushed upon us without consultation”, Cllr Ciara McMahon (SF) declared. Moreoever, she argued, the rationale behind the figures was that they had been allocated in 2014. adding that the whole issue of the GMA had been “grossly misrepresented” to councillors. Cllr Richard O’Donoghue also took issue with the detailed allocations.
“I am disappointed at some of the language used today,” Tom Gilligan said. But, he continued, the GMA had been raised at a meeting last October. “We had the amount. We had outlined where that money was going to be spent. A number of questions were raised at that meeting. Members agreed the GMA was a step in the right direction. As far as I am concerned we have already agreed the €275,000. That is not up for discussion. We have already agreed where that money is going to be spent.”
What was before councillors in the detailed list was “adding flesh to the bone”, he argued, providing further clarity on how the money would be spent.
“We have had no discussion on the breakdown of the monies. We are within our rights to have a discussion on the breakdown,” Cllr O’Donoghue said. There had been an expectation that there would be more detailed discussion, Cllr Neville said.
“Where was I when it agreed to give marketing video collateral of €12,000?”demanded Cllr Sheahan. “Our discretion wasn’t taken into account.”
“You are setting a very serious and dangerous precedent,” Cllr Keary declared, arguing that they needed to get legal advice and advice from the relevant department.
But Mr Gilligan was adamant there would be no revisiting of what had already been agreed. “There is no further discussion merited on this. It is already part of our budget,” he said. Councillors agreed to the holding of a special meeting and re confirmed the allocation of €50,000 to the Foynes Air Show.