Eoghan Dalton Reports
Festivals, businesses and tenants may be bracing themselves for impact ahead of this Thursday’s annual budget meeting, when Councillors will have their final chance at passing the blueprint for next year. If a budget doesn’t receive approval then a commissioner will be appointed by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to pass one in place of elected Councillors.
The controversy surrounding the Council’s deficit arose from a revaluation of assets and it means a hole of around €1.3 million needs to be plugged.
Councillors from Sinn Féin, Labour, the Green Party as well as Independents have agreed to pursue the Government for further funding, and a delegation from across the entire Council met with Minister of State for Local Government, John Paul Phelan last week to argue for more funding.
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Speaking afterwards, Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF) said it was the failure of the Government for not addressing the budget crisis facing the local authority.”Government created this crisis and are content to see Waterford take a net cut of €14.5 million over the lifetime of this council. How long can Waterford be expected to bear the brunt of indifference and disdain from Government buildings?
“It’s become clear that there is no political will amongst the confidence-and-supply Government to do right by Waterford. Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil are content for our communities and our employers to take a hit due to the Irish Water fiasco.”
Also speaking after the meeting, which he attended, Cllr Eddie Mulligan criticised the parties and Independents which lead the Council.
“The state of the city’s economic challenges seem to be escaping the focus of my colleagues with the apathy extended to solutions complemented by irresponsible deferment for continued political point scoring, on social media. “The real situation in Waterford is that many small to medium enterprises have had to cancel or defer Christmas nights due to the continuing challenges being experienced.”Cllr Eamon Quinlan (FF) said Sinn Féin had managed to “back themselves into a corner by saying they will not increase rates, rents or cut necessary services”.
“As the governing pact of Sinn Fein, Labour, Greens and the Independents have struggled to come up with an alternative to the proposal of Waterford CEO Michael Walsh of a 5 per cent commercial rates increase, worry has grown about what choices remain open to the pact,” he said. He reckons Sinn Féin Councillors are “readying the bulls-eye” on festivals: “Not only would it be a betrayal of those who have gone above and beyond to bring something new to their communities, these festivals generate more money for Waterford business’s by bringing in outside consumers.”
Cllr Jody Power (Green) told this newspaper that despite the “quite a lot of diverse opinions” among the pact, dubbed the Progressive Alliance, he believed they were making progress.
“I think Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are surprised that we are working so well,” he went on.
“But what will dictate matters is the meeting with businesses in the city,” he said, referring to a meeting scheduled for last night (Monday). “We’ll know better where we are after that.”
Cllr Conor McGuinness signalled that the party is still reluctant to deal out cuts at this Thursday’s meeting.
“Sinn Féin councillors are not elected to roll over and implement destructive and disproportionate cuts on behalf of a Government that is indifferent to Waterford,” he said.
“We will stand up for the people of Waterford and for small and medium enterprises.”