THE first chairman of the new West Clare Municipal Authority is seeking at least 33% of Clare County Council’s budget to be spent in the west and north of the county.
Councillor PJ Kelly was elected chairman of the body at last Friday’s AGM, attended by all eight of the recently elected county councillors, who serve in the enlarged West Clare constituency. The meeting also decided to restrict to six the number of the public who can attend the bi-monthly meetings, while senior engineer, Cyril Feeney, acknowledged the council is facing challenges in adequately staffing the district, which stretches from Loop Head to Ballyvaughan.
Councillor Kelly produced figures which he said proved Clare County Council collected millions of euro in rates from West Clare.
“The county council takes in €36.2m in rates. Ennis takes in €5.4m and Kilrush €0.7m. That comes to a grand county-wide figure of approximately €42m. One establishment in West Clare, ESB Moneypoint, pays €13m. That is 25% of the total revenue in rates and it’s 100% paid up, unlike many of the others,” Councillor Kelly said.
“Figures are not available for what we take in on property tax or what the rest of the West Clare constituency pays in rates. But, in rough figures, we’re paying in excess of one third of the revenue of the whole county. That means that we’re not settling for less than one third of the revenue of the county, which will be coming to us as a municipal authority. That will be our target. Nothing less and perhaps more. We have 47% of the landmass and two-thirds of the road network and 99.2% of the national secondary roads.
“All those things have to be kept in mind when budget day comes,” the Lissycasey based Fianna Fáil councillor told the meeting.
“We’re fortunate enough to have Councillor (Richard) Nagle as a member of the Corporate Policy Group. When there are preparations made for the estimates, I hope he will bear that in mind and be selfish in doing so, ensuring that we have to get at least one third of a re-investment back into the area,” Councillor Kelly told his party colleague.
“I will certainly support your call for adequate financing of this municipal district. It is a vast area and we need to continuously highlight the fact that we are approximately half of County Clare,” Councillor Nagle said.
“We have to be extremely vigilant. We have wonderful assets but unfortunately we have a dwindling population. In the short term, our immediate task is to sort out the mess after the storm damage. Our second task is to make sure that we get a fair slice of the budget. I understand that we’re going to have pre-budget here at a local level. That doesn’t make sense because it’s the council itself that will be setting the budget,” Councillor Kelly pointed out.
Seperately, Councillor Christy Curtin asked the committee chairman if he was aware what the municipal district staffing plans were.
“I have tried to get a lot of information over the last couple of days. A lot of things are just floating at the moment,” Councillor Kelly replied, while Councillor Bill Slattery asked how would a single area engineer cover the entire constituency.
“That’s one aspect that is hard to see working out. Cyril Feeney (senior engineer) would have to cover from Loop Head to Ballyvaughan. It’s not possible for one senior engineer to cover that area. How often can Cyril be in Lahinch or Ennistymon? It’s going to put an onus on us to travel and meet the engineer rather than he coming to meet us. That’s not fair to councillors and it’s not going to work,” Councillor Slattery maintained.
“It’s a big area, absolutely. It’s going to be challenging. I can certainly say I will be attending all of the meetings where notices of motions of relevance to the engineering function are on the agenda, which I suspect will be many,” Cyril Feeney replied.
“I’m generally on the phone 24/7. Other than that, it remains to be seen how exactly it will all work out. There are still issues that need to be resolved. There are still some resource issues that need looking at. The next few months will bring some issues to a head and iron out others,” he added.
“I would be asking the area engineers, as a group, to say that ye are not resourced to do it. I don’t think it’s going to work but I’d rather hear that coming from ye. I think ye know within yourselves that it’s not going to work,” Councillor Slattery stated.
“The allocation of staffing is the managers prerogative. That’s an executive function which the manager exercises,” Mr Feeney said in response.