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Westmeath councillors angry at Irish Water

Wednesday, 11th December, 2013 5:38pm
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Westmeath councillors angry at Irish Water

Cllr Mick Dollard.

Olga Aughey

Westmeath councillors are fuming as Irish Water has failed to notify them of the rates for the coming year.

As a result, the budget meeting of Westmeath County Council due to take place on Monday cannot now proceed.

Labour Party councillor, Mick Dollard, today told the Westmeath Examiner that – following a conversation with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at a selection convention in Ballynacargy last Saturday – he understands that Local Property Tax funds are to go to Irish Water.

“This means Westmeath County Council could be a million [euro] out one way, or a million out the other way, nobody knows,” said Cllr Dollard.

“This is the fault of national government. County managers have not been advised of their grants. We are over-dependent on central government for our funding.

“If I met the minister today I’d ask him how he expects local authorities to operate. Why are they divesting local government of their powers?”

County manager Barry Kehoe has been keeping members updated almost on a daily basis but, in a statement released today Westmeath County Council said:
“The Statutory Budget Meeting of Westmeath County Council, advertised and scheduled to take place on Monday 16th December, 2013 can not now proceed.

“To date the Council has not received notification from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government of the level of General Purpose Grant it will receive in 2014 and this is required to finalise the Draft Budget for 2014.

“Notice of the Statutory Budget Meeting issued on the understanding that the level of grant for 2014 would be received in sufficient time to prepare the Draft Budget for 2014 and the Members will make a determination on 16th December, 2013 when to hold the adjourned Statutory Budget Meeting.

“We are still not in receipt of our Local Government Fund allocation for 2014.”

This means that next Monday, when the council is due to hold its statutory budget meeting for 2014, if no notification is received from Irish Water, not even the preliminary budget can be set – something which councillors say is unprecedented in the history of local government.

Last night at a Mullingar Town Council meeting, director of services for the Mullingar Area, Declan Leonard, did his best to appease the councillors, especially Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Ken Glynn, who pointed out that everyone knew this was coming down the line. He asked where the fault lay.
“It’s all been kept very hush-hush!” Cllr Glynn said.

“Every other council is in the exact same position as we are,” replied Mr Leonard. “As you know we have been engaging with Irish Water for the last nine months.
“We are usually notified the first week of December on what the rates would be and normally we would strike a deal.
“We do know that there is a slight increase on what we had originally been told about.
“In relation to Irish Water, we’ll hear in January. It’s all under their remit.”

Today, Cllr Glynn added: “It’s ridiculous. Normally we would have our preliminary budget agreed by now, and our annual budget would be presented in public next Monday.
“It all has to do with the current government. It is delaying us setting our budget, which looks like it will run in to January of next year – this has never happened in the past. Irish water are giving us no answers.”

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