Cork’s city manager has rejected claims that he has undermined councillors by refusing to follow through on a council vote to seek a €5m Government loan to fund housing repairs.
There were angry exchanges at this week’s council meeting when it emerged that Tim Lucey had not sent a letter asking the environment minister for special Government permission to borrow more than €5m in emergency funding to repair almost 500 vacant houses.
The request to seek the loan was passed by a council vote last September. But when councillors asked the manager for an update on the letter this week, he said he had not sent it.
Sinn Féin’s Chris O’Leary reacted angrily and accused the manager of undermining the democratically elected institution. “Your job was to follow through on our decision,” he said.
His party colleague Thomas Gould also criticised the manager.
“The motion was passed in this council, and that’s what was passed,” he said.
“I do not accept the manager’s decision to supersede the democratic vote of council. The manager has refused to accept the decision made by Cork City Council.”
But Mr Lucey stood his ground and said he would not put his name to such a letter. “Any decision to seek such a loan has to be underpinned by my own team in terms of financial figures,” he said.
“And the financial situation of this council can’t sustain a loan at this level. I am not making an application and am not putting my name to something that hasn’t been backed up by figures.”
He said he has no objection about writing to the minister to request permission in principal to borrow money, but he said he would not be requesting a specific sum in the absence of a detailed financial assessment.
Fine Gael’s Des Cahill supported the manager’s position. He said the wording of such a letter was never put before councillors to examine. And he said given that Cork City Council owns almost 10% of the country’s social housing stock, he expected the city to get 10% of a €50m package which Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan has made available to councils to deal with vacant houses.
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