News & Current Issues
Here are some of the current issues.
AT ITS MONTHLY meeting Sligo County Council unanimously adopted a motion proposed by Cllr Declan Bree calling on the government to reverse its budget cutbacks.
Speaking at the meeting Cllr Bree said: “The budget imposed by Fine Gael and Labour has scapegoated the underprivileged, the unemployed, young people, old people and the sick.
“As tax payers money continues to be used to fund the bondholders and vampire banks, our public services are being undermined and run into the ground.
“The abolition of the telephone allowance will leave many elderly people isolated and lonely. The cut to the bereavement grant will go down as one of the nastiest cuts in the history of the state. By cutting the amount of welfare paid to under 25s the government has cynically ensured that the flow of emigration will continue and will destroy families and communities across the country. Attacks on illness benefit, maternity benefit and increased prescription charges, and the reduced availability of medical cards, are vindictively aimed at people who are already struggling.
“The role played by the Labour Party in demonising the unemployed and victimising the sick and the elderly, represents a huge betrayal of the people they once represented. It makes a mockery of the Labour Party and of its traditions and the socialist principles it once stood for.
“It is not the case that we are all in this crisis together. That is nonsense. The past number of years has seen a growth in inequality with those in the top seeing a huge increase in wealth and profits, yet this government has systematically chosen to put the burden of the crisis on those who can least afford it.
Cllr Bree then proposed ‘That Sligo County Council expresses its dismay at the cut backs being imposed by the Government through the recent Budget, including the decision to (a) increase prescription charges for medical card holders; (b) abolish the Telephone Allowance for the elderly; (c) abolish the Bereavement Grant; (d) reduce the Jobseekers Allowance for young citizens; and further the Council resolves to call on the government to reverse the cut backs.’ The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus and was unanimously adopted.
SPEAKING AT THIS months meeting of Sligo County Council following confirmation that the County Manager is to retire on the 3rd of November, Cllr Declan Bree said
“I am very pleased to hear the confirmation that the County Manager is retiring in November. I believe that the great majority of people in this county will rejoice at the news.
“Under the County Manager’s stewardship this Council has built up debts totalling in excess of €80million. And is it any wonder?
“Over the past number of years the County Manager consistently asked councillors to adopt annual budgets that were based on fantasy, budgets that bore no resemblance to reality, budgets that were absurd and unattainable, budgets that led to massive deficits in the revenue account each year. And to make up for the shortfall each year the County Manger then urged councillors to take out loans and increase overdrafts.
“Sligo County Council, as a result of ongoing incompetence, mismanagement and erroneous decisions has the worst financial record in the country. It is the only Council in the state where the revenue deficit is consistently increasing year by year and today it is on the verge of bankruptcy. Never in the long history of this Council has there been such a level of mismanagement.
“The County Manager will retire in November but when he is gone it will be the people of Sligo who will have to deal with the huge debts facing this Council.
“I welcome the news of his retirement.” said Cllr Bree.
AWARD WINNING Film Director Ken Loach and a number of members of the cast of the upcoming movie on the life of socialist Jimmy Gralton were among those who participated in a commemorative event to mark the 80th anniversary of the deportation of the famous Leitrim socialist.
The event took place yesterday evening at the site of Gralton’s “Pearse-Connolly Hall” at Effernagh, Co Leitrim.
Guest speakers at the event included Ken Loach, Paul Gralton, Sligo socialist councillor Declan Bree, screen writer Paul Laverty, Joe Murray of Afri, the actress Sorcha Fox and Jim Gralton a cousin of the celebrated socialist.
During the course of the evening Barry Ward who plays the title role in the new film and Simone Kirby who plays the female lead joined Sorcha Fox in a rendition of the well know labour song “Which Side Are You On?”. ‘Don't scab for the bosses, don't listen to their lies, us poor folks haven't got a chance unless we organise’ they sang to tumultuous applause.
Cllr Declan Bree in his address warned of the current government’s plans to impose further austerity measures and he said “They are imposing a diet of cuts and austerity on the majority of ordinary people while the rich can still go to their fancy restaurants and go shopping in Paris or New York, while the number of second-hand clothes shops and soup kitchens continues to expand throughout the length and breath of the country,
“Ordinary working people need to take sustenance, inspiration and strength from people like Jimmy Gralton and his colleagues, who in the 1930’s, in much more difficult conditions and under profound hardship, gathered the courage to organise themselves to resist the policies of austerity being imposed by the rich and powerful.” said Cllr Bree.
At the conclusion of the event Mr John Cronogue, who presided at the ceremony presented copies of Des Guckians’ book “Deported” and Michael Joe Mahon’s book on the history of the Kiltoghert Creamery Co-op to a number of the guest speakers.
AT ITS MONTHLY meeting Sligo County Council adopted a motion proposed by Cllr Declan Bree agreeing to invite tenders for the provision of legal services to the County Council in accordance with open public procurement guidelines.
Speaking at the meeting Cllr Declan Bree said “In his report to this Council for the year ended 2011 the Local Government Auditor highlighted the fact that Sligo County Council had not tendered for legal services and he stated that the Council should ensure that it complies with the regulations regarding tendering procedures.
“The Department of the Environment has emphasised that it is very important that the public procurement function is discharged honestly, fairly, and in a manner that secures best value for public money. The Department points out that authorities must be cost effective and efficient in the use of resources while upholding the highest standards of probity and integrity
“It is recognised and accepted that a competitive process carried out in an open, objective and transparent manner can achieve best value for money in public procurement. Essential principles to be observed in conducting the procurement function include non–discrimination, equal treatment, transparency and freedom to provide services.
“To my knowledge this Council has been spending enormous sums of public money for legal services for which the Council never sought tenders. This is surely unacceptable and outrageous in the times we are living in. There is no openness and there is no transparency. It would not be tolerated by other authorities.
“We should be getting value for money. Paying out huge sums of taxpayers money for legal services without any tenders being sought is in my opinion repugnant to the whole concept of public procurement and it is offensive to all those solicitors and law firms who should have an entitlement to submit tenders for the services and who have been denied the right to do so.
Cllr Bree then successfully proposed ‘That this Council having regard to the Statutory Audit Reports of the Local Government Auditor, resolves that Sligo County Council invite tenders for the provision of legal services to the County Council in accordance with open public procurement guidelines.’
THE UNITED LEFT (U.L.) in Sligo has called on the people of the North-West to join the growing chorus of opposition which has emerged in response to the upcoming G8 Summit, which is due to take place at the Lough Erne Resort, near Enniskillen on June 17th and 18th.
The U.L views the event, which will see the leaders of the world’s eight wealthiest countries, including Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin descend on the region for high-level talks, as an important opportunity to pressurise world leaders to take immediate action on a vast number of pressing global crises, including the disastrous impact of austerity in Ireland and across the EU.
Speaking this week Cllr Declan Bree said, “We believe it is important for the people of the North-West to register their discontent with the policies currently being pursued by the G8 in a number of areas and we certainly will be participating in the Protest Demonstration planned for Enniskillen on Monday 17th June.
“The G8 summit will see the main advocates of austerity come together to coordinate policies for making ordinary people pay for the crisis created by the banks and big business.
“In this context we want to make it clear to the likes of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and the other G8 leaders that austerity is failing the global economy and has caused immense suffering to ordinary people, something which has been particularly evident here in Ireland. People cannot stand meekly by while their futures, and that of their children, are sacrificed to patch-up a failing system which only serves the elites in our society.
“Our actions will coincide with those of a huge number of organisations, including those concerned with human rights, climate change and global poverty. We expect to see over 10,000 people demonstrate in Belfast on the eve of the summit to demand action by the G8 on world hunger, and this has been endorsed by the likes of Oxfam, Trocaire, Christian Aid and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“We are seeing a complete lack of leadership by the G8 on these issues, and it is only by applying significant pressure can we bring about a policy change.” said Cllr Bree.
SLIGO COUNTY COUNCIL has adopted a motion proposed by Cllr Declan Bree welcoming the recommendations contained in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Administration of the National Health and Local Authority Levy Fund.
Speaking at the monthly meeting Cllr Bree said “Each year Sligo County Council pays tens of thousands of Euro to the Local Government Management Services Board. That Board is controlled by the City and County Managers Association, and we now know that the Board contributed over €750,000 to the National Health and Local Authority Levy Fund.
“The National Health and Local Authority Levy Fund we are told was established to develop courses for low-paid workers in the public service.
“However what emerged at the Public Accounts Committee meetings and in the Comptroller and Auditor Generals Report, relates to a slush fund, breaches of public procurement rules and civil service employment law along with lavish expenditure on foreign travel and entertainment for well heeled bureaucrats.
“Almost €600,000 was spent on foreign travel, to the USA, Australia and other far distant lands. €99,000 was spent on hospitality.
“A single restaurant earned €46,000 in business out of the fund between 2004 and 2009. There were no details kept on the identities of the people entertained or trained as a result. There were trips to Lanzarote funded in 2007, 2008 and 2009 which were not in any way work-related.
“There were 27 cheques made out to cash which cost €24,000, the administrator said this was because one particular supplier wanted the cheques for cash. The auditors were unable to identify the beneficiaries for €58,000 paid out to other suppliers where no records kept.
“The Auditors report documented a plethora of instances where inappropriate financial management was discovered. The report states that proper accounts were not kept and explanations for a host of payments were not provided.
“We also learn that a group described as the Local Authority National Partnership Advisory Group (LANPAG) which received its funding from the Local Government Fund, made a number of inappropriate payments to the National Health and Local Authority Levy Fund. While I could not find the names of the LANPAG representatives I found it noteworthy that the Local Government Management Services Board (controlled by the City and County Managers Association) acted as host for the Group.
“While I welcome the fact that the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General relating to this issue have been accepted by the Department of the Environment I have to admit that I am disappointed that no sanction will be taken against any of the bureaucrats involved with the inappropriate payments. Again it is proof that there is one law for some people in this country and another for everyone else.” Cllr Bree concluded.
THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT’S decision to cut funding for the Housing Adaptation Grants Schemes in Sligo by 80% has been described as “savage and unprecedented” by Independent Socialist councillor Declan Bree.
“This savage and unprecedented cut in funding will have a devastating effect on the elderly and people with a disability.” Cllr Declan Bree said.
The funding is provided annually to each Council to cover the cost of three schemes: the Mobility Aids Grants Scheme, the Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme for People with a Disability, and the Housing Aid for Older Person’s Grant Scheme – all of which are means tested.
In 2011 the combined funding to Sligo County Council and Borough Council was €1,192,707; last year the combined funding was €1,106,824. This year the government has reduced the funding to €221,587 – a cut of 80%.
“These schemes have provided a life-line in the past to many older people and people with disabilities, it has enabled people who have qualified for the grant to fund such items as stair-lifts, walk-in showers, downstairs toilets etc. The older persons scheme provides funding for items such as leaking roofs, replacement boilers, or re-wiring.
“The effect of the cutback will be devastating. It will mean that the Council will simply have to turn people away in 2013 and inevitably some people will no longer be able to live in their homes. Instead some may be forced into residential care.
“What we are talking about here is an outrageous attack on the elderly and disabled. At a time when the government is bailing out bankers and bondholders to the tune of billions of Euro there can be no excuse for slashing the budget for these important housing schemes.
“The fact that the Labour Party Minister for Housing, Ms Jan O’Sulivan, is imposing these unprecedented cutbacks speaks volumes about the duplicity and treachery of the modern Labour Party.
“What the government is doing is penalising the elderly and the disabled – people who have had no hand act or part in bringing about the financial crisis that this country finds itself in. Yet the same government is rewarding the fat cats, the bankers, the developers and the bondholders who have brought the country to the edge of ruin. How can Fine Gael and Labour elected representatives justify such decisions?” asked Cllr Bree
THE CURRENT FINE GAEL/LABOUR government like the previous Fianna Fail/Green administration has betrayed the democratic principles of the 1916 Proclamation, said councillor Declan Bree when he addressed those attending the United Left People First annual Easter 1916 Commemoration Ceremony in Sligo on Easter Sunday.
Led by flag-bearers carrying the Tri-colour and the Plough and the Stars, participants in the ceremony marched from Cairns Drive to the Republican Plot in Sligo cemetery to hear Cllr Bree deliver the oration.
“The current Fine Gael/Labour government has surrendered our economic sovereignty to the Troika, imposing a vicious austerity programme which forces ordinary people to pay the debts of rogue bankers, speculators and developers.” said Cllr Bree.
“Today thousands of our young people are again being driven to emigrate, forcibly scattered across the globe because this state cannot afford them the most basic of human rights, the right to work and the right to have a home.
“At the same time we have to endure the sickening sight of the EU elite speeding through the streets of Dublin in their BMW’s and being wined and dined by Labour and Fine Gael in Dublin Castle.
“We urgently need to build a united resistance against the policies of the Troika and the Fine Gael/Labour administration, drawing all the many local campaigns around the country behind a people’s rejection of austerity.” said Cllr Bree.
Following the oration as a lone piper played a lament, Mr Marcus Murray laid a wreath on behalf of the United Left People First, Ms Philomena Dunne laid a wreath on behalf of the Connolly Forum and Mr Thomas Banks laid a floral tribute on behalf of the People’s Movement. The ceremony concluded with the National Anthem.
CLLR DECLAN BREE was critical of the governments Croke Park II proposals when he addressed those attending a United Left public lecture on the subject of the trade union and labour movement in Sligo during the war of independence and civil war.
The noted historian and author Dr Michael Farry, a native of Coolaney, delivered the lecture and gave a wide ranging talk on “The Irish revolution and the labour movement in Sligo 1912-1923”.
Clr Bree who presided at the event said: “One hundred years ago, in the face of significant opposition from employers and the establishment, the early pioneers of the Irish trade union and labour movement went out and fought for the rights of working people; for proper and safe conditions for workers; for adequate pay; for a shorter working week.
“It’s sad to note that now in 2013 – certain well heeled trade union and labour leaders are actually encouraging trade unionists to vote for a deal which will reduce income and increase working hours.
“It is my fervent hope that public sector workers and trade union members will take inspiration from the early pioneers of the movement, people like Jim Larkin, like James Connolly and John Lynch, people who were inspired by a sense of justice and a sense of solidarity.” he said.
A MOTION TABLED by Cllr Declan Bree calling on the government to withdraw the proposed property tax was defeated at this month’s meeting of the County Council. One Fianna Fail councillor joined with Fine Gael councillors in voting against the motion while another joined with the Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Veronica Cawley in abstaining on the vote.
Speaking to his motion Cllr Bree said, “Just two years ago during the General Election campaign the Labour Party in its manifesto stated that a Green Paper should be produced by the end of 2012 to show how a site value charge could be “structured in a fair and efficient manner.”
“Fine Gael in their election manifesto pledged to keep tax increases to a minimum. They stated that the “International evidence shows that tax hikes on average, raise the unemployment rate by three times more than spending cuts.”.
“In line with this approach they explicitly stated that “Fianna Fail’s proposal to introduce by 2014 an annual, recurring residential property tax on the family home is unfair”.
“Some year’s earlier the Fine Gael leader Mr Enda Kenny said ‘it is morally unjust and unfair to tax a person’s home’. Mr Kenny likened such a charge to ‘a vampire tax in that it drives a stake through the heart of home ownership’.
“Neither of the two government parties won an election by stating honestly that they would impose a tax on the family home.
“The sole aim of this new tax on the family home is to raise money to pay off the private debts of bankers, speculators and bondholders.
“Ordinary people are now recognising that they have been betrayed by those who claim to be looking after their interests.
“Enda Kenny was correct when he said it is morally unjust and unfair to tax a person’s home.
“As far as I am concerned the proposed new tax on the family home, like the universal social charge, and the ongoing cuts in health and public services are in essence a form of collective punishment against the great majority of Irish people who are being forced by government to pay the private debts of speculators, developers and bankers. The tax on the family home is unfair, it’s unjust, and it’s immoral.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree proposed: “That this Council abhors the Government proposal to impose a tax on the family home and calls on Fine Gael and Labour to withdraw the proposed penal tax.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus.
AT IT’S MONTHLY meeting Sligo County Council adopted a motion from Councillor Declan Bree, calling on the County Manager to provide a report outlining the authority he had to authorise County Council subsidies to Sligo Borough Council.
Addressing the meeting Cllr Bree said, “At last month’s meeting the County Manager stated that this Council had not been charging the Borough Council the full cost of services provided to the Borough each year and he indicated that the County Council has been subsidising the Borough Council to the tune of approximately €700,000 a year.
“Given that the finances of the Borough Council are in a healthy state and given that Sligo County Council is almost bankrupt I was astonished and amazed to hear the County Manager say that the County Council has been subsidising the Borough Council.
“And I have to say that members of the public found the story incredible.
“Taking into consideration that the revenue deficit of the County Council is growing by millions of Euro each year why would the County Council subsidise the Borough Council? It doesn’t make any sense.
“If such a subsidy was provided I am anxious to know what authority the County Manager had to provide the subsidy.
“Members of the Council will be aware that decisions of the elected Council are made by way of resolutions adopted at Council meetings; and decisions of the County Manager are made by way of written Manager’s Orders.
“I was always of the view that decisions relating to Council expenditure was a reserved function of the elected councillors. Yet, I do not remember the elected Councillors every making a decision to subsidise the Borough Council. I have checked back through the minutes of Council meetings and I cannot find reference to any such decision being taken by the elected Council.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree proposed then proposed that the Council request the Manager to provide (a) a written report outlining the statutory authority he had to provide the subsidy (b) copies of the relevant Manager’s Orders relating to the decision to provide the subsidy to the Borough Council. His motion was seconded by Cllr Sean Mac Manus and was unanimously adopted.
THE COUNCILLORS WHO voted to impose the County Council’s austerity budget do not have a mandate to do so and they have betrayed the interests of many of those who voted for them, said Cllr Declan Bree when he addressed a meeting of the United Left Alliance in Sligo.
“Despite the fact that the Council had been provided with increased funding by the Department of the Environment, the Fine Gael, Labour and the independent labour Chairperson of the Council Cllr Veronica Cawley, voted to impose the most savage cut- backs ever witnessed at Council level in Sligo.” said Cllr Bree.
“The decision to slash funding for grants for the disabled cannot be justified under any circumstances and the decision to cut the housing aid for the elderly schemes by 40% will leave many older people without the supports they require
“The vote to remove funding and support for community groups, arts and heritage organisations, and groups promoting tourism will have far reaching implications.
“The decision to slash the maintenance budget for council houses by 75% while at the same time increasing rent income by 12.5% tells its own story. Council tenants will be expected to pay rents amounting to €2.25million while only €100,000 will be invested in maintaining the housing stock. It would appear that the surplus funding will be used to pay senior officials and to pay off banks loans.” Cllr Bree said.
“Funding for recreational development, for parks, pitches and open spaces has also been cut to the bone.
“The decision to slash the library book fund to a miserly €10,000 will decimate the public library service in Sligo. This type of cut in the library service would not be accepted anywhere else in Ireland. Libraries are a cultural resource of universal benefit yet the service in Sligo has been targeted by the philistines in Fine Gael and Labour.
“While these savage cuts are being imposed millions of euros from the Council’s budget are being diverted to pay interest on huge loans which the same councillors foolishly voted for in recent years.
“In July 2010, the County Manager asked the members of the Council to authorise borrowing of €18 million by way of a term loan of €15 million and a temporary overdraft of €3 million. Councillors were told then that the main reasons for the loan and overdraft totaling €18 million was because there was an accumulated deficit on the revenue account of €7.5 million and that there was expenditure of approx €10 million on capital related activity that awaited funding. The majority of councillors voted for the County Manages proposal.
“However despite the fact that the Council borrowed the money to clear the €7.5 million deficit in 2010 it was discovered last year that not one cent of the deficit was cleared.
“Yet these councillors continue to dance to the County Managers tune. Only two months ago the same councillors voted to take out yet another loan, this time a sum of €7.5 million, to replace overdraft borrowings which they had actually increased by that stage to the banks overdraft limit of €7.5 million. It never stops.
“Now the Fine Gael and Labour councillors and the Independent labour Chairperson of the Council are imposing savage cutbacks so as to allow Council funds to be diverted to pay off interest on loans that were clearly unsustainable and should never have been sought.
“When those councillors went forward for election they talked about improving and extending council services. In the period since the election they have performed U-turn after U-turn. They have accepted levels of ineptitude and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in any other local authority in Ireland and they have reduced the level of Council services in this county to an all time low. They have betrayed the trust of the people” said Cllr Bree.
“THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT Auditors Statutory Report for 2011, released this week, is a damning indictment of the manner in which Sligo County Council manages its financial business and it clearly confirms what I have been saying about the management of the Council, said Cllr Declan Bree.
The Auditor Mr Raymond Lavin, in his report expresses concerns in relation to the financial performance of the Council and in regard to the financial standing of the Council and its increasing level of debt.
“Not only has the auditor confirmed that the Council’s revenue deficit increased by an alarming 30% last year - to almost €13 million - he also went on to say that in his opinion the deficit figure was actually understated in the Council’s accounts.” said Cllr Bree.
“Comparing the Council’s budget with the actual outturn the Auditor has pointed out that the expenditure by the Council in 2011 was significantly higher than that provided for in the budget.
“He said the Council needs to prepare realistic achievable budgets and these budgets need to be carefully monitored and implemented. Indeed he said the same in his reports in 2009 and 2010. But no one seems to be listening.
“The auditor has again this year complained about an insufficient audit trail in relation to a number of Council projects and he also complains that the Council’s registers of lands and buildings have not been properly maintained.
“The fact that the Council purchased an interest in property in Ballymote for the sum of €100,000 without any valuation or without any formal agreement being drawn up in accordance with regulations and guidelines is indicative of the manner in which the Council management transacts its affairs
“An area of particular concern relates to the recent Financial Appraisal of the Council carried out earlier this year by a firm of private consultants. According to the Auditors Report the consultants were advised by Council management that the Council would break even this year. However he points out that the unaudited accounts for the first half of 2012 indicate a deficit of €1.5 million for the first six months.
“What is particularly amazing is the revelation that a sum of €4 million which Management included in last years Council budget as income, was nothing less than pure fantasy.
“According to the County Manger it was assumed that there would be €4 million savings arising through a voluntary redundancy package and redeployment, and it was decided to show the financial impact of this as income of €4 million in the Council budget. Where else but in Sligo could such a preposterous budget be concocted.” said Cllr Bree
“To add insult to injury everyone of us including the dogs on the street knew there was no possibility whatsoever of the government introducing a voluntary redundancy scheme.
“The Council is now over €80 million in debt and is it any wonder? For the past number of years the County Manager has consistently asked councillors to adopt annual budgets that were based on fantasy, budgets that bore no resemblance to reality, budgets that were absurd and unattainable, budgets that led to massive deficits in the revenue account each year. And to make up for the shortfall each year the County Manger then urged councillors to take out loans and increase overdrafts.
“Unfortunately the majority of councillors dance to the County Managers tune and they have constantly voted for budgets which have undermined the council’s financial viability.
"It should now be obvious to most people that what is happening in terms of the finances of the Council is not only unacceptable, it is unsustainable.” Cllr Bree said.
THE GOVERNMENT HAS indicated that the property tax, due to replace the household charge, will be introduced next July. The property tax is just another name for a tax on people’s homes, the United Left Alliance T.D. Joan Collins told a public meeting organised by the Sligo Campaign against the Household and Water Charges in the Glasshouse Hotel this week.
“The fact that the tax is due to be introduced next July is about the only thing that is definite at this point.” said Deputy Collins, “Everything else will be announced as part of the Budget. The tax initially is likely to range from €250 to €400 a year. It will increase significantly in the following years.”
“Everywhere anger against the inequality and injustice of the present economic system is exploding. In this context the national Campaign against the Household and Water Charges has spurred new forms of struggle and every day more and more people are joining the resistance against austerity
“€25 billion has been taken out of our economy in the last 5 budgets and has devastated our country. The IMF says that every Euro taken out of the Irish economy results in an effective cut of €1.70. In this context it is clear that austerity is not working.” said Deputy Collins.
Sligo Councillor Declan Bree told the meeting “The campaign against the household and water charges has built up significant resistance to the governments proposals since the beginning of the year.
“Everywhere the message is clear; people cannot and will not pay the debts of bankers and property developers
“The household charge is essentially an interim measure that will be replaced by a fully fledged property tax on the family home in the forthcoming budget. People should be made aware that registering for the household charge identifies homeowners and acknowledges liability.
“The household charge and the property tax on the family home are being imposed at the behest of the EU and IMF who insist that the monies raised by the tax will be used to pay off the private debts of the speculators, the developers, the bankers and the bondholders – the very people who have brought our country to the edge of ruin.
“The household charge, the septic tank charge, the universal social charge, the ongoing cuts in health and public services, the new property tax on the family home and the new water tax are in essence a form of collective punishment against the great majority of Irish people who are being forced by government to pay the private debts of speculators, developers and bankers.” Cllr Bree told the meeting.
Dr Brian O'Boyle who also addressed the meeting said "Each year the Irish state pays over €10 billion in interest payments. This money is robbed from the people through cuts and tax hikes.
"The only reason this scandalous state of affairs persists is that the European Central Bank ordered us to stuff private banks full of cash so that they could pay off debts to the European banks.
"The Troika never had any interest in helping the Irish people – they only wanted to shore up a dysfunctional EU financial system.
"These debts should all be cancelled. They are crippling Irish society and we should no longer suffer." Dr O'Boyle said.
THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS on local government including the proposal to abolish urban based councils was described as a retrograde step by Councillor Declan Bree when he spoke on the matter at meetings of the Borouhc council and County Council this month
"The proposal to abolish town councils and local self government in Irish towns is a retrograde step." he said "I am aware that the government wants to divert taxpayers money to pay off the private debts of bankers, developers and bondholders, but there is no evidence to show that the abolition of town government will save money; in fact it will further reduce the level of accountability in the entire administration of local government. This is at a time when we particularly need accountability, openness and transparency
"Recognising that the purpose of local government is to promote the well being and quality of life of citizens and communities, through effective, accountable and democratic representation and efficient performance and delivery of services at a local level I have to say, that in common with many other local elected representatives I was extremely disappointed with the proposals on local government put forward by Minister Hogan and the government and particularly with the failure to devolve any additional real power to local government.
"Instead of the devolution of powers from central to local government this government is further weakening local self government in this county." said Cllr Bree.
"The decision to reduce the number of councils to 31 means that in Ireland there will be a council for every 145,000 citizens. In Luxembourg there is a council for every 4,200 citizens; in Belgium there is a council for every 18,000 citizens; in Germany there is a council for every 6,400 citizens; in France there is a council for every 1,700 people. What Minister Hogan and the government is proposing here is incredible – it makes a mockery of the whole concept of local self government and local democracy.
"I would also point out that in recent years elected councillors have consistently lost powers over road plans, waste management plans, and many planning functions. Even the decisive role which councils once had over their Annual Budget and over City and County Development Plans has been greatly diminished. At the same time Managers and senior officials have been given new powers, which are bordering on the dictatorial.
"It is obvious that the local government management system as operated in this country has contributed to an extremely weak local political system. Council officials do not have a political mandate to represent the local community while local elected representatives do not have the responsibilities or structures to optimise a strong local leadership role.
"I have always made the point that all decisions affecting local communities should be taken by elected councillors.
"In most European countries functions such as Education, Health, Policing, Transport and Traffic are normally delivered and overseen by City, County, Regional and Local Authorities.
"However Local Government, as it is normally known in the rest of Europe, actually doesn’t exist in Ireland. At best we have a system of local administration, through which Managers and officials make the executive decisions for our cities, counties and towns. This system was established in the 19th century when we were still the subjects of a foreign monarch. Yet Minister Hogan and the government are taking no real or substantive measures to change that.
"The fact is that elected councillors in Ireland have very little power compared those involved in local government in other jurisdictions. The government’s current proposals now confirm that Ireland has the weakest system of Local Government in the European Union." said Cllr Bree.