CLARE County Council saved more than €400,000, as a result of the abolition of three town councils and the reduction of 40 councillors since the local elections last May.
Councillor Johnny Flynn had called for a report from head of finance, Niall Barrett, on savings following the abolition of the three town councils and the reduction in numbers from 68 to 28 councillors, since the mid-2014 elections.
He also asked what reductions to Clare and Ennis town rates can be expected in 2016, as a result of these and other associated efficiencies that were predicted to be achieved, following the 2014 Local Government Reform package.
According to Mr Barrett, payments to councillors in 2013 were €1,266,000; in 2014, €1,063,000, and this year, the cost is expected to be €858,000 – the first full year that the council is operating as a single entity – a saving of €408,000.
Mr Barrett added that it should also be noted that the Local Government Reform Act has had other implications on the expenditure and income of the local authority.
Abolition of the town rate for both Kilkee and Shannon, he said, has resulted in a loss of income, while other initiatives, such as the Public Participation Network (PPN) and the Local Enterprise Office (LEO), resulted in additional costs for the council.
Councillor Flynn said he felt the second part of his question hadn’t been fully answered in the response, except for the comment on additional costs in PPN and LEO and said there had been a big reduction in the number of meetings and the servicing of the democratic process in Clare and would like an idea of how much money would be returned to the rate payers, following the savings.
Councillor Christy Curtin supported the motion and said in the past three years that €3 million had been saved.
Councillor James Breen asked about the implications for twinning allocations made by the Ennis, Kilrush and Shannon town councils, “now that we’re all the one happy family”. CEO Tom Coughlan replied that allowances had been made in the 2015 budget for some twinning expenditure.
Mr Barrett said the point he was trying to make in his response was that the savings have already been taken into account in the budget for 2014/2015.