Cork City Council was plunged into crisis last night after it failed to adopt its 2015 budget — despite two votes.
It came as the sheer scale of the impact of austerity on the organisation emerged.
After an almost five-hour and at times chaotic meeting, which was suspended twice, councillors voted 15-14 against the overall budget.
A 10-minute deferral was called to see if there could be a change of heart.
But following some frantic consultation and negotiation, and a second vote, councillors voted 15-14 again against adopting the budget.
It is the first time since 1991 that the city’s councillors have failed to agree a budget.
They now have two weeks to hammer out an agreement and pass a budget before the council is dissolved and a government appointed administrator is called in to run the city.
But Fianna Fáil said it is not interested in reconvening a meeting.
“We should write to the minister and say we can’t pass a budget,” Cllr Terry Shannon said.
Fine Gael was criticised for not having all of its members present for the meeting.
But a frustrated FG Cllr John Buttimer said councillors had one job to do last night. “And that is adopt a budget,” he said.
He called for “time for people to go away, and come back with clear heads and adopt a budget.”
Sinn Féin said they gave a commitment they wouldn’t support a budget that didn’t provide for key issues like housing maintenance and roads resurfacing.
“Why would we support a budget that is the same as 12 months ago,” SF Cllr Thomas Gould said.
AAA Cllr Mick Barry said it was clear councillors could not support an “austerity budget”.
The writing was on the wall from early in the meeting as councillors voted against several of the high-spending service divisions.
Councillors were told the council has lost €43m in central government grants since 2011, its revenue reserves have been wiped out, and it has shed 367 jobs, saving €12m in payroll cost.
The budget contained proposals to maintain commercial rates at 2014 levels, to ringfence 1% of those rates for an economic development fund, and to hold on-street and off-street parking charges at their current rates.
Meanwhile, a delegation of five members of the People’s Convention was refused access to City Hall to watch the meeting.
Spokesperson Diarmaid Ó Cadhla described it is an insult to the people of Cork.
“This is the second year running that council has moved to do business behind closed doors,” he said.
He said they were advised they needed to contact one of the Party ‘whips’ — who were “responsible for vetting” potential attendees.
“The political parties are no more than private clubs — they should have no role in deciding who should or should not attend what is supposed to be a public meeting of city council.”
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