AGAINST the backdrop of imminent abolition, members of Letterkenny Town have agreed a rates freeze for the third consecutive years and adopted a revenue budget of almost €8million.
At an historic last ever budget meeting on Thursday night a night, it was a case of mixed emotions for the council which is to be abolished from June 1 as part of local government reform. While town councillors adopted a budget it will be transferred over to Donegal County Council as part of the new fiscal structure after the local elections.
The council has been operating in Letterkenny since 1839. Indeed, the longest serving member, Councillor Victor Fisher, who has served the town for almost thirty years, refused to attend the budget meeting in protest at the abolition.
Speaking to the Donegal News on Friday, Cllr Fisher, said he was bitterly disappointed with the lack of political will to save the council and ‘just couldn’t bring himself to attend the last budget meeting’
“It was more out of a sense of disappointment and frustration that I didn’t attend the meeting. I was bitterly disappointed none of our politicians at national level stood up and voted against the government to save the town council,” he said.
“Town councils with a population of over 10,000 people should have been saved. It is a joke- because this town council has been self sufficient and the axing of members wasn’t saving any money. The council only really has a few months to run now- I was just so disappointed with the whole thing,” an emotional Cllr Fisher said.
“Minister Hogan is going to have a lot to answer for in years ahead. Instead of robbing the rich to pay the poor he is robbing the poor to pay the rich. He’s the opposite of a modern day Robin Hood,”added.
In his report to the budget meeting, County Manager, Mr Seamus Neely, said the ‘budgetary strategy’ provides for the delivery of front line services in areas such as Housing, Roads Maintenance- Improvement, Parks-Open Spaces and Street Cleaning to the highest standards and for the continued marketing and promotion of the town from both retail and tourism.
“The provisions contained within the Budget will enable the Council to meet its commitments and maintain services at the existing high levels for which Letterkenny Town Council has responsibility,” he added.
Mr Neely said the budget would address many of the pressing issues identified in motions over the past number of months.
Of the €8million budget over €4.3 million is generated from commercial rates fears. The abolition plans has given rise to fears of crippling rate hikes and a diminution of public services, tourism, chambers of commerce and local voluntary- residents groups.
However, the discussion around the budget was dominated by the imminent abolition of the council, which will effectively cease to exist in June.
Town Mayor, Councillor Paschal Blake, said it was a ‘sad night’ for the town.
“People will only realise what we are losing in the next year,” he said.