SHANNON Town Council’s budget for 2013 was passed on Monday evening, although council members clashed on certain aspects of it.
The council’s expenditure is projected to drop by €4,000 next year, declining to €141,000. The town rate is to remain at €2.11.
In the draft budget document, Shannon Town manager Bernadette Kinsella said funding is tight. “The draft budget has been prepared in a continuing difficult economic climate. This is reflected in a reduction of funds available from Clare County Council and the maintenance of commercial rates at 2010 levels in recognition of the demands being placed on the business community.
“The draft budget sets out the amounts necessary for the council to fund its operations for the coming year. Gross expenditure is estimated at €141,000 and projected income is estimated at €41,000. This results in a net expenditure of €100,000 and represents the demand from Clare County Council for 2013. This level of demand does not necessitate an increase in the town rate, which remains at €2.11.”
She said she had made a decision not to put money towards the cost of the next local elections. “The annual provision towards the cost of Local Elections 2014 has not been provided in the draft budget in light of the Action Programme for Effective Local Government which envisages a single operational system effective from mid-2014.”
She also stated that money was being allocated towards The Gathering. “Provision has been made in the budget for the sum of €2,000 towards the Gathering 2013 initiative. This is a special initiative undertaken by the Government to assist with the economic revival of the country. The target is to bring in additional visitors and increase direct tourism revenue for the benefit of local businesses and communities. The budget provision will support small local and community events in the town that have the capacity to deliver extra overseas visitors.”
She claimed the budget was quite fair. “The budget 2013, as drafted, acknowledges the financial circumstances, which exist both at public finance level and at individual enterprise level and at the same time, achieves the balance required to ensure that Shannon Town Council can contribute to and participate in a wide range of community activities in 2013.”
The decision not to provide funding for the 2014 Local Elections was criticised by Councillor Gerry Flynn, who said the manager was accepting the abolition of the Town Council as a “fait accompli”.
He questioned why the budget still had expenditure of €4,000 on membership of the Association of the Municipal Authorities of Ireland, if the council is going to be abolished anyway.
Ms Kinsella said the budget had been prepared in accordance with Government policy but stressed the members could “amend it in any way that they wish”.
Councillor Flynn disputed the abolition of the councils is official. “I have news for you – it’s not passed into legislation.”
He said the council shouldn’t be funding the AMAI, particularly as it has welcomed the recommendation that the town councils be abolished.
However, Councillor Patricia McCarthy said he had highlighted only part of their position and the body had sought the best deal possible with regard to the new municipal districts which are to be formed.
“If we decide to opt out we won’t have a representative body to fight for Shannon, we’ll be out on our own.”
She also claimed it was unfair to say the AMAI hadn’t made a case for town councils.
Independent Councillor Cathy McCafferty said in her opinion, it was premature to stop making provision for local elections in advance of legislation.
Both Labour party members, Greg Duff and Tony McMahon said that while they saw some logic to the proposal from Councillor Flynn, they felt withdrawing from the AMAI would be counter-productive.
Ultimately the council opted not to withdraw from the AMAI on a 7-2 vote, while they also voted to pass the budget, again on a 7-2 margin.