Budget talks still at an impasse

Budget talks still at an impasse
Adoption of Donegal County Council’s 2014 budget meeting has been adjourned a ninth time on Tuesday in an attempt to avert the ongoing impasse.

Adoption of Donegal County Council’s 2014 budget meeting has been adjourned a ninth time on Tuesday in an attempt to avert the ongoing impasse.

Councillors are expected to resume deliberations at 11pm during this third day of deliberations.

If the council does not adopt the budget by the midnight deadline on Tuesday, they must seek an extension from government or the council will fall. If they do not receive an extension of the deadline for adopting a budget, Phil Hogan, minister for Environment and Local Government, would appoint an administrator to serve in the place of elected members until the next local election in May.

Earlier in Tuesday’s deliberations, Fianna Fáil councillors said they were not in a position to support the budget because of questions still unanswered regarding the transfer of water services to Irish Water, and concerns over funding for housing and roads. Their questions surrounding the Irish Water transfer included concerns over future water charges and the transfer of the council’s water assets to the new authority.

“We’re not happy here as a council,” Cllr. Brogan said. “We should stand together and go back to government and say we’re not happy.”

“We should demand a meeting with Irish Water,” Cllr. Brogan said. Cllr. Brogan and other councillors had last year requested a meeting between the council and Irish Water, but the new authority did not accept those requests.

“Our party will not and cannot support the budget that’s before us today,” Fianna Fáil Cllr. Ciaran Brogan said.

Cllr. Brogan said that councillors had met late into the night for many budget meetings and even when they had disagreements, “one thing we did over many years was we stood up for the people of Donegal.

“One thing very evident here today -- we’re not getting the best deal. The people of Donegal are not getting the best deal,” Cllr. Brogan said.

Sinn Féin councillors also said they could not support the 138 million euro draft budget. Speaking on behalf of the party, Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher said the draft budget showed reduced spending in housing, corporate and roads, with the increase in water spending related to the transfer of assets to Irish Water, whichn Sinn Féin also opposed. She likened the transfer of water assets to “having a hole in your roof and asking a contractor to come and fix the roof, and handing over your house. That’s what’s going on in Donegal today.”

She said the people of Donegal were paying more for less service. “That’s just black and white. That’s what’s in this book. So for me, I cannot accept that,” she said.

Cllr. Gallagher said, “It’s not a good deal for the people of this county, as far as I’m concerned because there are reduced services while everyone is paying extra.”

Fine Gael argued that Irish Water was an issue for Dáil Éireann and not the county council. Late on Monday night, Fine Gael had proposed amendments to the draft budget that would cut commercial rates by 5 per cent among other changes. While Fianna Fáil also supported a cut in rates, there have been no proposals made to identify where the council would find the 1.5 million euro needed to fund those adjustments and produce the balanced budget the law requires.

County Manager Seamus Neely told councillors in relation to the Fine Gael proposals that “for me, council hasn’t presented a proposal balanced to a degree that I would recommend it be put to the floor”.