Manager praised for delivering rates cut
Councillors at yesterday's budget meeting were still talking about possible adjustments in the 2011 draft revenue package, though they had praise for the County Manager and his team for delivering a proposed cut in commercial rates.
Representatives of the different political groupings on the council had not had an opportunity to respond officially to the council's 2011 draft revenue budget yesterday by the time of going to press.
But speaking during a break in the meeting early yesterday afternoon, Sinn Fin Cllr. Pdraig MacLochlainn said that his party was seeking support for a strategic transportation fund that would support Donegal Airport at Carrickfinn, the ferries from Buncrana to Rathmullan and from Greencastle to Magilligan, and the study that will be looking into the possibility of returning rail service to the northwest.
Cllr. MacLochlainn said the fund would require about 200,000 euro. Currently supports for those projects are taken from local community development funds. But Cllr. MacLochlainn said his party would be looking at trimming money from allocations for conferences and procurement of consultancy fees and legal costs to support the fund.
The councillor said he believed the elected members would reach consensus on the budget before the day was over. "This is the headline: Historic budget meeting sees all-party consensus for the first time on the budget," Cllr. MacLochlainn said.
Labour Cllr. Jimmy Harte said he believed there was a consensus among elected members that the county manager had done a good job in framing the budget. Most were happy to see the proposed 3.5 percent cut in commercial rates, he said, which brought the rates down roughly to 2005 levels.
Fine Gael Cllr. Barry O'Neill was critical of the cut in the council's Local Government Fund allocation. "The government doesn't seem to understand that Donegal is up against the wall as regards small businesses and job creation," he said. "We don't need a decrease in that fund."
While Cllr. O'Neill said he welcomed the proposed 3.5 percent cut in commercial rates, he said he believed the cut should be higher.
"A 5 percent cut is what is needed at this point in time," he said. "We need to find 5 percent because a lot of businesses out there are suffering."
Fianna Fil Cllr. Ciaran Brogan, the party whip in the council, commended the manager and directors "for the huge effort they have put to presenting this budget." He said the council's senior management team faced huge challenges in the coming year, but said, "I think they have identified where the priorities are and that's where the resources should be".