AN additional €18m will be spent on roads, housing and water services by Cork County Council next year, compared to 2018.
At a local authority meeting this week, councillors passed their annual €344m budget – but only after a marathon five hours of debating, and two recesses.
It took that long for them to agree on specifics, including whether to dip into their reserves of €7.34m to deliver more services to the public.
In the end, it was decided to take €3m out of the Council’s reserves to shore up 2019 spending.
Outlining the budget breakdown, Lorraine Lynch, head of finance, said that the County Council is planning to spend over €57m on housing, €84m on road transport and safety, and over €36m on water services, with €29m for recreation and amenity.
Ms Lynch said that the Council would be funding this through a variety of sources, including an anticipated €133m in rates and €16.6m from the local property tax – councillors had previously voted not to vary the basic rate for 2019 – and rent income from housing.
She also pointed out that the Council’s reserves stood at €7.34m, a reduction of €5.76m following the settlement of a longstanding legal case that is subject to a confidentiality clause, but added that funding for this is being pursued.
Ms Lynch added that the Council didn’t want to be reliant on a surplus to balance the books and that €3m represents only 1% of the draft budget.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said that the authority has identified housing and roads, incorporating public area maintenance, as key priorities for 2019. Public lighting will receive over €400,000 with €1.1m provided for town approaches and the roadside maintenance programme.
Following several hours of talks in relation to amendments to the budget, councillors from all parties finally agreed on additional funding of €606,000, including €100,000 for school wardens, €100,000 for tenancy support workers, €120,000 for disability grants, €236,000 for outdoor workers and €50,000 for national monuments.
The budget was then adopted unanimously by councillors.
In what proved to be a lively and contentious debate, Independent Cllr Diarmaid Ó Cadhla was asked to leave the chamber after he accused the bigger parties of influencing the decision-making from behind closed doors.
His comments enraged councillors from all the main political parties, with Cllr Michael Hegarty (FG) calling on Cllr Ó Cadhla to withdraw his comments, while county mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy described the comments as ‘absolutely ridiculous and scurrilous’.
When Cllr Ó Cadhla refused to withdraw his comments, he was asked to leave the chamber.