Councillors’ expenses cut

EXPENSES paid to Offaly County Councillors will be reduced slightly in a bid to provide additional funding of €175,000 to other areas of the Council’s spending in 2012.

EXPENSES paid to Offaly County Councillors will be reduced slightly in a bid to provide additional funding of €175,000 to other areas of the Council’s spending in 2012.

The local authority member expenses will be reduced by 20% while the fire service budget will be cut along with several other areas of Offaly County Council’s expenditure this week in a bid to provide further funding to the county’s roads programme and the Disabled Persons Grant [DPG] scheme.

The proposals were mooted during last Monday’s subdued budgetary discussions in an attempt to increase funding to these areas. Examining the figures, Cllr Eamon Dooley proposed a number of amendments to the draft budget presented earlier to the Councillors.

These included a 20% reduction in expenses to local authority members, a 50% cut to funding for conferences abroad, €5,000 reduction in operation costs of the Civil Defence, €35,000 reduction to the operation of the fire brigade services, increasing the incoming from fire service training by €40,000 and an increase in the landfill operations by €30,000.

Other changes proposed included reductions to the Aras’ budget, taking a further €5,000 off the post room costs, a reduction by €30,000 to the contributions to the Joint Drainage Boards.

The amendments brought a total savings of €175,000 of which €100,000 will go back into the Disabled Persons Grants, bringing its total funding up from €627,058. The remaining €75,000 would return to the County Roads funding allocation.

Cllr Dooley said it is not easy to leave out other areas but the council had to address some of them. The proposals were welcomed by Fine Gael Councillor Tommy McKeigue.

Cllr McKeigue welcomed the increase to the funding under the Disabled Persons’ Grant scheme.

“These people are not in a position to funding improvements themselves,” he said. The Fine Gael councillor also welcomed the funding allocation to the county roads of €75,000. “I will support it in general. The figures will not change. We need sacrifices.”

His party colleague, Cllr Molly Buckley also supported the budgetary changes. Independent Councillor, John Leahy welcomed the additional funding for the DPGs and the roads programme.

However, he noted the reduction in the funding for housing maintenance while Cllr Johnny Butterfield welcomed the proposed reduction in the members expenses and travel expenditure.

Fine Gael Councillor, Connie Hanniffy added that she could see no option but to support Cllr Dooley’s proposals, noting the huge demand on DPG funding while the county road definitely need attention.

Cllr Hanniffy said the Council will have to refocus themselves and sought updates on the various sections during the year, in particular in relation to large spending areas. “I hope that we can continue to provide the level of services that we have done in the last year,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, Independent councillor, Dervill Dolan, put forward similar proposals to the Council in respect of making savings in 2012 while independent councillor, John Foley lent his support to Cllr Dooley’s proposals. “We should lead by example,” he added.

Fianna Fail councillor, Noel Bourke thought it was one of the “most difficult budgets” he has been involved in since he became a councillor. “It makes for scary reading,” he insisted.

Putting the issue to a vote, Cllr Dooley’s budgetary proposals were passed by a majority of the councillors.