Cork city councillors agreed last night to hold an extra meeting of their finance committee within days to discuss ways of plugging the city’s €1.6m funding shortfall ahead of its November 16 budget meeting.
During an at times tense debate, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin councillors criticised the Government for policy decisions which have cost the city dearly, including:
- A reduction in rates income following a review of rates paid by utilities like Bord Gáis, ESB, and phone companies, which has cost the council over €1m;
- The centralisation of all local authority payroll systems, which will cost the city €188,000;
- The removal from local authorities of an Irish Water billing function for commercial and industrial water customers, which will cost the council some €190,000.
Cllr Sean Martin (FF) said “interference by national Government” has cost the city dearly. “This is preventing us from fixing roads, footpaths, potholes, carrying out housing maintenance. It’s all on hold until this is dealt with,” he said.
Cllr Thomas Gould (SF) called for a cross-party delegation to meet the finance and local government ministers to discuss the city’s funding crisis.
Party colleague Shane O’Shea said the reason the city is facing a financial crisis is as a result of policy decisions implemented by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the last 30 or 40 years.
Cllr Terry Shannon (FF) took a swipe at Sinn Féin and AAA councillors for failing to take tough decisions.
“The ‘do nothing’ councillors who will pontificate, rant, and roar, but will vote for nothing, will rely on the rest of us to do what we can, to take the tough decisions,” he said. “We’ll dig into the figures, and do our best to come up with a budget that’s balanced.”
A furious Stephen Cunningham (SF) and Thomas Maloney (Ind) called on Mr Shannon to withdraw his “do nothing” remark.
Paudie Dineen (Ind), one of the few ratepayers on the council and who has supported the last two city budgets, said he can’t support one that includes a 2.9% commercial rates increase.