Wednesday 19 June 2019

Cllrs reject draft 2019 budget over local roads funds

Despite an extra €560,000 in the kitty for 2019 it wasn't enough for councillors in mid Cork

Maria Herlihy

Despite a cash injection of  over €560,000 extra to bring the draft Macroom Blarney Municipal District budget to over €6.8 million for 2019, it did little to bring joy to councillors who opted to reject it.

At a special Blarney Macroom Municipal District budget meeting held on Tuesday, MDO (Municipal District Officer) Marie O'Leary presented the draft budgetary plan for 2019 but also included, for comparison, the 2018 budget.

In 2018 for the region there was a budget of €6,300,532 but for 2019 the proposed draft budget stands at €6,867,504 - which is an increase of €566,972.  Councillors' great ire stemmed from there being no increase in funding for local roads but instead there was a cut of €87,000.

There is a proposed budget of €4,408,636 for Local Roads Maintenance and Improvement for 2019 but for 2018 it was €4,496,567 - a dip of just over €87,000.

Cllr Des O'Grady (SF) said while overall he welcomed the draft budget for 2019, it seemed "once again that the local roads were left to suffer" compared to the regional ones.  "The cut in the local roads is disappointing and while there is an increase on litter management and street cleaning of 11% but yet it's local roads that are cut, just why is that?" he asked.

Ms O'Leary said, for comparison, she looked at the figures for 2017 and 2019 and there is "just shy of an extra €1 million between them."  Cllr Bob Ryan (FF) said everyone is being "fed the story" that the country's finances are improving and there was great "fanfare for the recent budget" but the reality is that there are great reductions to local roads which he described as "unbelievable". 

"Every line in the budget for 2018 you can compare with 2019 and you should see an increase in every line but really it is derisory, with the exception of regional roads. I really just can't understand it," he said.

He proposed to other councillors to reject the budget.  Cllr Gobnait Moynihan (FF) asked if it was possible to move some of the proposed funding from the Regional Roads Maintenance and Improvement funding, which is presently at over €1.6 million, into the Local Roads budget.

"While I am delighted by the increase it's the local roads that need the money. Why do we have to end up relying on grants like beggars. To me, it seems that the basic primary function of Cork County Council has gone out the window - work such as cleaning dykes and cutting hedges," she said.

Cllr Michael Creed (FG) welcomed the proposed boost in funding and said that a number of byroads are in "reasonable nick" considering the last two harsh winters.  However, he agreed with Cllr Moynihan that money should be taken out of the national roads for the rural roads. 

Cllr Kevin Conway (Ind) said that three years ago funding for local roads was cut and since then it's backwards they have gone. "The main Tower to Blarney road is in an atrocious condition. It's a major road but yet our previous budget was cut by one third and it went to East Cork," he said. 

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Ted Lucey (FG) said that spending on local roads should be left "in the hands of the local engineers" who know and understand their regions.  Councillors voted to reject the draft budgetary plan and aim to hold a meeting with Aidan Weir of the Roads Services at Cork County Council.