Newcastle West councillors take control of budget 

Newcastle West councillors take control of budget 

The concept had been “badly sold” - Cllr John Sheahan

NEWCASTLE West councillors will have a sum of €110,000 to spend at their discretion on various local projects next year.

A further €95,000 will be available to councillors to spend on local roads and €20,000 for community initiatives.

This was agreed as part of the Newcastle West’s Municipal District’s draft budget of €225,000 for 2017.

Outlining the draft budget, acting head of finance Sean Coughlan pointed out that, unlike in previous years, there was no provision for parks and pitches. Funding for these has now been put back into the main budget, he said.

But he confirmed that the €40,000 for the upkeep of the Demesne in Newcastle West would be ringfenced in the 2017 budget which is due to come before the full council on November 11.

But Cllr Liam Galvin FG said that more money was needed for the county’s three municipal districts. The needs in these districts, he argued, are different from those of the city but the city got more government department funding and also got more EU funding, he claimed.

“It is something we need to look at,” he said. In 2016, councillors agreed to divide the €100,000 earmarked for special projects among the six councillors. This had allowed councillors to help out voluntary and community organisations, Cllr Galvin pointed out.

But he argued the council’s budget should include a discretionary fund for each councillor. “If there was a heading there for discretionary money for councillors, then special projects would be something we could look at as councillors.”

“Last year’s money, in my view, was used effectively,” his party colleague, Cllr Jerome Scanlan said. The community was looked after, he stressed.

“We have finally put to bed the misnomer of special projects,” Cllr John Sheahan, chairman said. The concept had been “badly sold”, he continued. “Management made a complete hash of it.”

“It was envisaged that special projects, over the lifetime of a council, would have the capacity to leverage a lot more money. That was the vision. But that fell apart. It was sold badly the first day.”

But Cllr Sheahan argued that it was up to the rural Municipal Districts to come up with the projects and look for the funding. The ERDF fund, he pointed out, which is providing funds for the refurbishment of O’Connell St, was also open to them.

“What we should do is find the project that would tap into the ERDF,” he said. “We need to get shovel-ready projects for the county.”

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