ENNIS Town Council could be set for a return.
Clare County Council CEO Pat Dowling told a meeting of Ennis councillors that in discussions taking place around the possible reintroduction of some local authority structures, “Ennis is most definitely being earmarked”.
He was speaking at a meeting to consider the budgetary plan for the Ennis Municipal District. He outlined that the county capital’s position in the national planning framework strategy and its size strengthen Ennis’ position for a return of a local authority structure.
Fianna Fáil has been pushing for the return of the local authorities, introducing a bill to that effect earlier this year.
Town councils were abolished in June 2014 when the Local Government Reform Act was implemented in a move that drew much criticism.
Meanwhile, it was also agreed at the meeting that the Ennis Municipal District would have €274,400 of discretionary funding to spend.
Mr Dowling stated, “The general municipal allocation for 2017 for the Ennis Municipal District was €274,400. At the meeting of Clare County Council in September to consider the Local Property Tax rate for 2018, it was decided that the basic rate of Local Property Tax would not be varied for the period November 1, 2017 to October 31, 2018 and therefore would remain at the same level as 2017.
“The proposed general municipal allocation for 2018 for the Ennis Municipal District therefore remains at the same level as 2017 at €274,400.”
He pointed out that this is not the entire budget for the municipal district, responding after councillors highlighted differences between this and former town council budgets.
Councillor Johnny Flynn compared the municipal district allocation to the budget of over €10 million that the town council had. He added that an increase on the municipal district budget from 2015 was welcome.
He stated that last year’s allocation was used positively throughout the town, including funding improvements to footpaths.
Councillor Pat Daly argued that the funding is “not enough”.
“We were getting millions of euro when there was a town council. Unfortunately, the town councils are now gone. There is so much work to be done here, for example on the roads structures, and we need this to attract more industry and employment.
“We need to write to the minister telling him we are a large town and we need to get our Dáil representatives involved. The fact is, it’s not good enough.”
Councillor James Breen stated that the town council budget was always supplemented by the county council and he asked if the council could provide more money for the county capital.
Mr Dowling outlined that this was not the only expenditure for the municipal district in 2018 and it is separate to the capital expenditure account for the entire county.
He explained the funding was an initiative introduced with the Local Property Tax to provide for discretionary spending, which the municipal district members have full authority over.
He added that while for a number of years Clare County Council were operating in a deficit, they are one of the few in the country that are now buoyant.
He continued by stating that indications are that the Government’s capital investment programme will be “significantly increased”. “I am hopeful and confident that this will be of benefit to Clare,” he said.
Councillor Mary Howard supported the funding but said she “understands the frustration”.
She stressed the importance of Ennis receiving adequate funding. “If Ennis does well, the whole county does well. It’s important to invest in the county capital,” she said.
Councillor Tom McNamara said last year’s funding was spent “in ways that were very beneficial for the town; every area benefited”.
He proposed that the general municipal allocation be adopted.