County councillors warned they’ll “be on the dole”

Galway County Council Head of Finance, Ger Mullarkey

Galway County Councillors will have to ‘join the dole queues’, if they do not pass the 2018 Budget later this month.

The stark warning came from Ger Mullarkey, Director of Services for Finance at Galway County Council.

Mr Mullarkey outlined to Councillors that if they refuse to pass a budget, the Minister for Environment can dissolve the Council.

“If members choose not to accept a budget, the Minister can dissolve the Council and instruct the executive to pass a budget. You’ll all be on the Dole! I’m not being flippant. The Minister can dissolve the Council,” said Mr Mullarkey.

Responding to concerns of members, he again clarified that if Councillors do not pass a budget, the Minister can remove them from office, as per the relevant local authority act.

He was not aware of it having been done anywhere else previously but it was a possibility, he said.

Mr Mullarkey was speaking at the Oranmore/Athenry Municipal District budget meeting last week, where cuts of five per cent were proposed in a draft budget, which was rejected by members.

“Work on the statutory budget is ongoing at the moment however that process will not be completed until mid-November. What is known at this date is that in addition to the reduction in Local Property Tax, there will be reductions in other income headings and in addition there will be some increases in non-discretionary expenditure headings.

“This will be partially offset by an increase in rates buoyancy,” he said. In relation to the latter, Mr Mullarkey expects additional rates income from the Plaza on the M6 motorway and windfarms in the west of the county.

He is preparing the statutory budget in a vacuum, because the Department hasn’t yet indicated how much the Council can recoup for increased payroll costs in 2018.

“Were this recoupment not to materialise that would have an adverse impact on the final outcome and would have to be reflected in the statutory budget brought before the members at the end of November,” he said.

Before the Athenry/Oranmore budget meeting commenced, three other municipal districts voted to reject their annual budgets. Athenry/Oranmore members voted to reject its budget last Friday morning, and two more districts followed suit.

This means that all Municipal Districts have rejected their budgets, casting doubt on whether the main County Council budget will be supported. In October, members voted to reduce the LPT, resulting in €1.45 million less income.