Details of €436,000 in cuts to be made immediately by Roscommon County Council were outlined to councillors at a special meeting of the council held on Wednesday of this week. The cuts announced will affect areas such as road maintenance, housing grants, land drainage, amenity grants and litter control.
The meeting was called so that the executive of the Council could inform members of decisions taken in consultation with the Corporate Policy Group to “reforecast expenditure” in light of the €436,000 reduction in the Government’s funding of the Council.
News of the cutbacks came to light last month. On Wednesday, County Manager Mr. Frank Dawson said that as a result of non-compliance of over 40% of people in the county regarding the new household charge the cuts have been ordered by Minister Phil Hogan. Mr. Dawson said that further cuts of €1.3 million will have to be made in October if the non-compliance in the county remains at its present level.
Mr. Dawson said that just over 14,000 people had paid the household charge in the county as of now while about 9,000 people have yet to pay. He thanked those who have paid and appealed to those who have not paid yet to do so immediately. “We will be back here in October to cut another €1.3 million if people do not pay up by then” he warned.
Councillors were angry at the level of cuts being implemented. Cllr. Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fail) said that it was “an appalling situation.” He commented: “It is terrible to see groups like tidy towns committees and cemetery groups being affected. I think we should put our plans for the new civic offices on hold for the moment. The people out there would not give us much credit for going ahead with that while we are cutting their services at the same time.”
Cllr. Rachel Doherty (Fianna Fail) said that the government were grappling with a huge economic crisis. “These cuts are not about non-compliance at all. There is no point in blaming the people who didn’t pay for this situation. I am disgusted that there are so few Fine Gael councillors here at this meeting today.
“People out there don’t really care what we are talking about here today, they are more worried about getting on with their own situations. I will agree with any cutbacks that are agreed with regard to a reduction in councillors’ pay or expenses or a reduction in allowances. We all have to play our part in this. I would also like to know are there any plans to reduce the salaries or expenses of the executive of the council?”
Cllr. John Cummins (Fianna Fail) said that the cutbacks being announced would sound the deathknell for many local voluntary groups. “The monies that are being cut back here might seem small in terms of the overall situation, but to them it’s a huge thing.”
Cllr. Michael McGreal (Fine Gael) said that the crisis in funding would be averted if 200 people were taken off the dole queue in the county and put to work on behalf of the community.
“It would solve a lot of problems. There are some households where there is €1,000 per week coming in from Social Welfare payments. If we gave 200 people work to do for the community it would pay back the council a hundred fold in the long run and I have been on about this proposal for years.”
All the other councillors present spoke on the matter and there was fierce criticism of the cuts, the government, Minister Phil Hogan and the manner in which the household charge was announced and was being collected.
The cuts proposed by the County Manager on behalf of the council executive were as follows – Reduction in local authority maintenance works: €60,000; Suspension of new approvals for housing grants to older people and those with disabilities: €6,000; Reduction in local roads allocation: €150,000; Closure of public conveniences: €8,000; Withholding of the payment of grants to cemetery groups, tidy towns groups and amenity grants to community and voluntary groups: €60,000; Closure of recycling centres on Saturdays: €20,000; Reduction of resources for litter control: €5,000; Reduction in subvention for Roscommon Leisure Centre: €10,000; Suspension of the Mobile Library Service: €10,000; Reduction to Strokestown Genealogy Company: €5,000; Reduction in Maintenance of amenity areas including Roscommon Town Park: €37,000; Reduction in Arts programme: €10,000;
Reduced land drainage: €50,000.
* Cllr. John Murphy (Independent) has called on Minister for Environment and Local Government Phil Hogan to introduce an amnesty for the payment of the household charge to allow people to pay without penalties until the 30th September.
Cllr. Murphy stated that it would allow people who had received no notification of the charge an opportunity to pay without penalties, and could lead to a much higher collection rate in the country.
"Savage cuts are having to be made to the services Roscommon County Council provides in order to live within its means, services such as Road Maintenance, Verge Trimming, Land drainage and Tidy Towns grants".
Cllr. Murphy's proposal was agreed unanimously as last Wednesday’s Special Council meeting to discuss cuts to this year’s budget.
Issue dated: 10 August 2012
© Roscommon People