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Councillors seek abolition of West Clare Municipal District

The two longest serving county councillors are seeking the abolition of the West Clare Municipal District (WCMD) amid claims it is no longer relevant due to a lack of funding.

Stretching from Loop Head to Ballyvaughan, eight county councillors are members of this district and on the 28-person Clare County Council.

District chairman Christy Curtin, and Clare’s longest serving councillor PJ Kelly, have suggested that the municipal district has no real role to play because of a lack of finance.

They made their comments at last Friday’s local authority meeting in Miltown Malbay Community Centre when it emerged that their budget was set at €56,700.

“Is there a case for our discontinuing?” Councillor Curtin asked.

“I don’t see a role for us any more. Rural Ireland has become economically and politically irrelevant,” Councillor Kelly claimed.

Chief executive officer Tom Coughlan told councillors at the meeting that the allocation was the same as that issued in 2014.

Councillor Kelly asked how was this figure decided upon ahead of the county council budget meeting.

“The primary sources of income for Clare County Council are rates and local property tax,” Mr Coughlan explained.

“The council made a decision, in advance of September 30, as required by law in relation to property tax. The council decided to reduce the property tax by 15%. So we know now what the income is from property tax.

“There was a suggestion at that meeting that Government might give us more funding but after the decision was made by the council in relation to property tax, we got a circular from the department which set out the final parameters for the council in terms of property tax.

“There is no more money coming from property tax. The other main source of income is rates and as part of the legal requirements of harmonisation you can’t adjust the rate, which you’re in the process of harmonisation,” he added.

However, Councillor Kelly insisted that significantly more money is allocated to equivalent municipal district bodies in Limerick.

“The kind of money we’re being offered here, you could take it up in a church gate collection if we did two Sundays in-a-row. It’s derisory. I look at the figure across the river in Limerick.

“The lowest is €295,000 going up going up to nearly €400,000. Obviously the message here is the county council is going to have central control of these funds rather than regional control as happens in other counties. Are we not to be trusted?” the veteran Lissycasey councillor asked.

Councillor Bill Slattery said that elected members decision to cut 15% off the property tax, a decision which was taken at a county council meeting, had led to a reduction in the council’s income and a resultant negative impact in services the local authority can afford to provide. He suggested that councillors should have cut the rate by 7.5% instead.

“That horse has bolted,” Councillor Gabriel Keating commented.

Asked by Councillor Ian Lynch if development contributions were available to the municipal district, Tom Coughlan said that as they were capital funding and a municipal district did not have a planning function, they would be administered by the county council.

“We might as well get rid of the municipal districts so,” Councillor Lynch suggested.

Councillor Richard Nagle said €10 million had been collected in the county in property tax and noted that if that money had remained in Clare, municipal districts would have received in the region of €500,000 apiece.

“I wish it was more than €56,700 but I have to have regard to the overall income that is available,” said Mr Coughlan after Councillor Gabriel Keating had proposed that the budget plan be adopted.

“I’m not supporting it and I have my reasons,” Councillor Kelly said.

“I share your dissension but I’m voting for it,” Councillor Curtin said. The budget was passed without a vote and adopted at the meeting.

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