Cork City Council has avoided dissolution after councillors voted last night to accept the city’s 2015 budget.
The vote on the €152m budget, details of which were unchanged since it was voted down last Monday, was swung after two independent councillors changed their position.
Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy voted in favour of the budget, while independent Cllr Mick Finn abstained. Crucially, Ind Cllr Paudie Dineen, who was not at last week’s meeting, also supported the budget last night.
It resulted in the budget being adopted 17 votes in favour, 12 against, with SF, AAA, and The Workers Party all voting against.
Mr Finn said while he still couldn’t support the budget, he was instead adopting a “neutral position” in relation to it.
“The prospect of this council going in to administration doesn’t suit anyone.
“It would remove that layer of democracy and would only push decisions further out of hands of those who elect us to this council.”
Mr McCarthy criticised junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin for his comments on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, where he described city councillors as a “chaotic bunch of people” who can’t take responsibility for their decisions. “We’ve been put in this situation. There is a huge disconnect between this minister and councils.
“This is a very difficult budget to vote for and that message needs to go back to the department.”
Councillors were told the council has lost €43m in central government grants since 2011, that its revenue reserves have been wiped out, and that it has shed 367 jobs, saving €12m in payroll cost.
The city’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, said framing the budget was difficult but that it struck a reasonable balance across competing objectives.
It contains proposals to maintain commercial rates at 2014 levels, to ring-fence 1% of those rates for an economic development fund, and to hold on street and off street parking charges at their current rates.
But despite a raft of efficiencies, Ms Doherty said she can’t sanction cuts in commercial rates for a sector which now accounts for 43% of the council’s income.
She said the council has also made provision to cover €1.5m liabilities for loan charges for housing capital and advanced land purchase programmes — a hangover from the boom years.
Despite the financial difficulties, Ms Doherty said the budget, for the second year in a row, does not include cuts in funding to community supports, housing and roads maintenance.
And she said there are modest increases to address higher costs and increasing demands in the largest spending directorates.
Cllr Sean Martin (FF) said national politics has failed the public.
“I don’t think we are out of the woods yet. But there is an onus on us to pass this budget. The alternative isn’t worth thinking about.”
AAA Cllr Mick Barry said people have had enough austerity and the council shouldn’t continue dishing it out.
“This council has had €51m robbed from it by this Government in the space of the last four years.
“This council is turning its back on the key problems of people we are meant to represent.”
Cllr Chris O’Leary (SF) said he knows of 12 families being forced to live in camper vans, and for that reason, his party couldn’t support a budget which does nothing to address the city’s social housing crisis.
Workers Party Cllr Ted Tynan attacked central government for funding and staffing cutbacks.
However, after a plea from Lord Mayor, Cllr Mary Shields (FF), for councillors to abandon partisan politics and to work together to meet the challenges facing the city, the budget was agreed.
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