News & Current Issues
Here are some of the current issues.
AT ITS monthly meeting Sligo County Council unanimously adopted a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree calling on the government to reverse its proposed cuts in Community Employment Schemes
Proposing the motion Cllr Bree said "As part of the recent Budget Minister Joan Burton cut the training and materials grant for Community Employment Schemes from €1,500 to €500 per participant.
"The cuts not only limits training opportunities for community employment workers, but puts the future of schemes in jeopardy as they struggle to pay for rent, insurance, heating, electricity and basic materials.
"Additional payments for workers on social welfare including single parents and those in receipt of disability were also targeted by Minister Burton.
"Community Employment schemes provide a very important and valued contribution to social employment and to training for unemployed people. In addition many schemes provide vital community services. In areas of disadvantage, community employment is often the only access people have to work, training and education
"Today 2,463 Community Employment Scheme workers are employed in health and social services, 3,592 work in environmental schemes, 14,000 work in the community sector with another 272 in support tourism.
"In essence Community Employment has effectively become the labour force for the community and voluntary sectors.
"In this context the decision of Labour and Fine Gael, to undermine and dismantle the Community Employment Schemes must be opposed and the savage cutbacks reversed.
"I therefore propose the following motion:'Recognising the significant benefits of Community Employment Schemes to local communities and to CE participants, this Council calls on Minister Joan Burton and the Government to immediately reverse the proposed cuts in Community Employment Schemes.'”
DESPITE IT being €77million in the red. losing €7,000 a day and facing abolition, the Fine Gael members of Sligo County Council at its monthly meeting voted down a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree proposing that the Standing Orders of the Council be suspended so as to allow councillors to discuss the financial crisis and the recent meeting with Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
In proposing his motion Cllr Bree said "The meeting with the Minister was hugely important, not only with regard to the Councils finances but also with regard to the future of the Council.
"In fact we have correspondence before us today from the Ministers office expressing his concern and pointing out that failure to adopt a balanced budget has not only sever impacts on the community but can also result in the dissolution of the Council and the appointment of a Commissioner to carry out the Council’s functions.
"This is the most serious issue facing the Council for decades if not since it's foundation
I therefore propose: 'That Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Council to discuss the outcome of the meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Mr Phil Hogan T.D. regarding the financial crisis in the Council, which took place in Dublin on the 31st of January.'
Cllr Bree's motion was defeated by 11 votes to 7 with 2 abstentions
THIS IS AN issue that if we don't organise an opposition, in less than two years we will be facing major household taxes, the government's own figures are €800 for property and €500 in water taxes, said Clare Daly T.D. when she addressed a capacity crowd at a Public Meeting in Sligo's Glasshouse Hotel, organsised by the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes.
Other speakers at the event were: Dr Brian O' Boyle, Cllr Declan Bree, Mr Seamus O'Boyle and Mr John Gallagher.
Ms Daly told almost 300 people who attended the meeting that the government wanted citizens to act as their agents, to get information on properites so that additional charges could be intruduced. "Less than 5% of the population have registered and we're already half way to the deadline. There will be a huge problem for the government if people don't register. The citizens of Ireland need to stand together, we won't be the lambs of Europe" she said to huge applause from the audienace.
An appeal was made for support for the campaign's first public protest which will take place outside Sligo's GPO on Saturday 25th of February at 1.00.p.m.
SLIGO COUNTY Council cannot survive without a significant change in management and a major financial bailout Cllr Declan Bree told the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan T.D., when a deputation from the Council met with the Minister on Wednesday 1st of February
The all party deputation from Sligo County Council met with the Minister to discuss the Council’s financial crisis.
The meeting took place in Leinster House just weeks after it was confirmed in a Local Government Auditor’s Report that Sligo County Council was in the red to the tune of almost €77 million with its deficit growing out of control
The deputation which was led by the Cathaoirleach of the Council Cllr Michael Fleming also included councillors Gerard Mullaney, Hubert Keaney, Declan Bree, Jim McGarry, Sean MacManus and Patsy Barry. The Acting County Manger Mr Tom Kilfeather and the Council’s Head of Finance Ms Marie Leydon were also in attendance.
In his submission to Minister Hogan, Cllr Declan Bree said:
“Over the past number of years I have been consistently pointing out at Council meetings that the draft budgets presented to the elected Council by the County Manager bore no resemblance to reality.
“I pointed out that the budgets were absurd and unattainable and indeed I also pointed out that the elected council had an obligation both legal and moral, to ensure that in so far as possible that sound systems of financial management were in place in the Council.
“However, despite the spiralling debt, the County Manager continued to implement his style of management with the silent acquiescence of the great majority of councillors and as a result, today, Sligo County Council stands on the verge of bankruptcy.
“Even as late as last month, the majority of the elected members of Sligo County Council voted for yet another of the County Managers budget. A Budget similar to budgets presented to us in earlier years – a budget which could only be described as another work of fantasy, which will lead to yet another huge deficit at the end of 2012.
“In addition I would point out that information relating the Council’s finances which the elected council is entitled to have was consistently withheld from us over the years.
“It was impossible for councillors like me to scrutinize what was happening with regards to the finances. The record will show that when specific information relating to the finances was sought by the elected Council it was either not provided at all, or it was provided on a drip feed basis.
“Openness and transparency was anathema when it came to dealing with the finances of the Council.
“We now know that the Management of the Council committed millions of Euro to numerous projects despite the fact that the Council did not have the financial resources to cover the costs.
“We know this because the Management had to eventually seek approval from the elected Council to borrow millions of Euro to pay for the projects.
“Indeed when the most recent loan of €15 million was authorised in July 2010 councillors were told that it was to be applied to a number of items including the €7.5 million Revenue Account Deficit.
“However in 2011 when the elected council received the annual financial report we discovered that none of the loan was applied to the revenue deficit and that the deficit had in fact increased further to almost €10million.
“I understand that when Council officials sought approval for the loan it was also indicted to the Ministers Offices that portion of the loan was to be used to reduce the revenue account deficit.
“So in this context it would appear that senior staff in the Department of the Environment, who should have been watching, either didn’t take note of, or recognise, or appreciate the fact that the finances of Sligo County Council were spiraling out of control.
“I have to admit that I am at a loss to understand how or why certain senior civil servants in the Department of the Environment gave the thumbs up for all requests from the County Manger for loan approval and for the Council’s increasing overdraft facilities.
“Now Sligo County Council finds itself in dire financial circumstances.
“While the County Manger has not said it - I believe that the Council is running up a deficit in its revenue account of approximately €7,000 every single day, seven days a week.
“It is my opinion that as a result of gross incompetence and consistent mismanagement Sligo County Council now finds itself in a position which is unsustainable.
“In my opinion the Council cannot survive without a significant change in management and a major financial bailout.” Cllr Bree told the Minister.
The Minister in his response to the deputation particularly referred to the €15 million loan which was approved in 2010 and said the Department had been advised that portion of it was to be used to reduce the revenue deficit. He said he was concerned that none of it had been used to reduce the deficit and he said Sligo was the only Council in the country with such a revenue deficit.
The Minister made it clear that the Council was obliged to adopt a balanced budget and he said he had written to the Council and had drawn attention to the consequences that faced the Council, including the ultimate sanction. The Minister said that Department officials will engage with Council officials on the ground. He said he wanted proposals from the Council with a view to addressing the financial crisis.
JUST ONE WEEK after it was confirmed that Sligo County Council was in the red to the tune of almost €77 million with its deficit growing out of control, it has now been revealed that the Council has been paying in excess of €800,000 per year renting office and storage space.
In documentation released by Council officials this week in response to a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree, it is admitted that the Council has been paying rent for 13 premises in Sligo including €193,448 per year for office accommodation on Cleveragh Road; €164,89 per year for offices in the Cleveragh Retail Park and €69,252 per year for offices in Old Market Street.
“Given the dire financial position of the Council over the past number of years I find it amazing that the County Manager would spend such excessive amounts of money renting private properties”, Cllr Declan Bree said today.
“I sought this information at a Council meeting a year ago - back in January 2011. I specifically proposed at the time that the Council be provided with a report, including the identity of each property rented by the Council, the purpose for which each property is used by the Council, the annual rent paid for each property and the rent paid per square ft, and the date on which the rental agreement was entered into in respect of each property.
“It has taken the County Manager 12 months to pull together the information we sought and needless to say this doesn’t surprise me. At our most recent meeting we learned from the Local Government Auditor’s report that the Council’s Registers of lands and buildings have not been maintained properly. With this type of management is it any wonder that the Council is in financial crisis.
“In 2008 the Council had a budget deficit on its revenue account of €4.2 million. In 2009 the budget deficit was €3.2 million, in 2010 the budget deficit was €2.4 million and all the indications are that the Council’s budget deficit for last year will be approximately €3 million. This is a total of €11.8 million deficit on the revenue account alone. Yet, at the same time the County Manger was paying out over three quarters of a million euro each year on rents. It’s incredible. Would this be allowed happen in any other County Council in the country? It’s as if the Management of Sligo County Council was living in a parallel universe.” said Cllr Bree.
“Now, with the Council on the verge of bankruptcy I understand that the County Manager is proposing to terminate some of the rentals. It’s yet another case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.” said Cllr Bree
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING or “fracking” is a technique for extracting gas from deep within shale rock and coal beds. The process involves using high pressure to inject massive volumes of water, plus sand, plus chemicals into dense rock formations, said Cllr Declan Bree, when he proposed a motion at this months meeting of Sligo County Council calling for a ban on Fracking.
"The outgoing Government awarded licences to a number of companies to explore for commercial gas in the Lough Allen basin and the Clare basin. The Lough Allen Basin covers parts of counties Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Mayo, Monaghan, Tyrone and Roscommon." he said.
"The dangers that fracking poses to water quality, to human safety and to the general environment has been highlighted in the media and by environmentalists in many parts of the world.
"France has banned the use of fracking and last year the Quebec Provincial government put a stop to Shale gas exploration in Quebec until a full environmental study can be done on the controversial drilling technique. Six months ago New Jersey became the first State in the USA to ban fracking." Cllr Bree said.
"In a study requested by the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, scientists conclude and I quote that "at a time when sustainability is key to future operations it can be questioned whether the injection of toxic chemicals in the underground should be allowed, or whether it should be banned as such a practice would restrict or exclude any later use of the contaminated layer... and as long-term effects are not investigated."
"What we in Ireland need now, is not to indulge the greed of the oil and gas companies who will do anything to get further profit out of the ground, What we need is investment in clean, safe and sustainable energy that can provide for people’s needs and protect the environment.
"If we have significant gas resources underground, it will only go up in value over time, and we can surely wait until such time as there is an acceptable and environmentally safe method of extracting it."
Cllr Bree proposed the following amended motion "That Sligo County Council calls on the government to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing /fracking and that the Council commence the process of amending the County Development Plan so as to ban the process of hydraulic fracturing/fracking in County Sligo." The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus and was unanimously adopted.
A NUMBER of councillors were unhappy when I referred to Sligo County Council as a basket case when we discussed the finances of the Council at our last meeting. Cllr Declan Bree told the January meeting of Sligo County Council
"However the Auditors Report for 2010 which we have before us clearly confirms that what I have been saying about the management of the finances of this Council is absolutely correct.
"The Local Government auditor may be somewhat more diplomatic with his language however the fact is that the report before us is scathing of the manner in which the finances of this Council have been managed.
"Given the ongoing refusal of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors to challenge the County Manager over the past number of years this Council now finds itself in a major financial crisis.
"The auditor expresses concern in relation to the financial performance of the Council and the assumptions underlying the budgetary process. He expresses concern in relation to the financial standing of the Council and its increasing level of debt. He tells us that the Council’s revenue debt increased by 33% in 2010 to €9.98 million and he points out that salaries were underestimated by €1.42 million or 11%.
"He says there was an insufficient audit trail in relation to a number of capital products and despite having raised the issue in the past he again highlights the fact that there is no evidence of legal services being tendered for in most cases.
"The report indicates that millions of Euro were spent on the Model Niland Gallery and other projects despite the fact that the Council did not have money to cover the costs.
"In addition the auditor says that the Council’s registers of lands and buildings have not been properly maintained and he points out that the Councils long term debt increased by €10.7 million to €76.9 million.
"The auditor confirms that as a result of borrowing and refinancing in 2010 the Council reduced its short-term overdraft to €3 million.
"However we all know that when the Auditors Report for 2011 is published it will show that within months of the overdraft being reduced to €3 million, the majority of councillors supported the recommendations of the County Manger to consistently increase the overdraft and today this Councils overdraft stand at €11 million.
"It should now be obvious to most people that what is happening here in terms of the finances of this Council is not only unacceptable, it is unsustainable. In essence what is happening here is a microcosm of what occurred in Anglo Irish Bank.
"This report is a damning indictment of the manner in which the Council manages its financial business.
"And I have to say that I find it amazing that the County Manager is not present at the meeting on the day the Council is dealing with the Auditors Report. Can you imagine the C.E.O. of a company in financial crisis, being absent from the Board meeting on the day the Auditors Report is to be considered. It could only happen in Sligo County Council.
"Given the contents the Auditors Report I now challenge the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors to propose a vote of confidence in the County Manager."
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion:- “Having considered the contents of the Local Government Auditors Report for the year ending 31st December 2010 and recognising the grave financial crisis the Council finds itself in, the elected members of Sligo County Council request the Minister for the Environment to meet as a matter of urgency with an all party delegation of councillors to consider the critical financial position of the Council and to seek the advice and assistance of the Department of the Environment and Local Government in terms of resolving the crisis.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean Mac Manus and was unanimously adopted.
IN THE interest of openness and transparency and indeed to ensure value for money I am proposing that the meetings of all Borough Council meetings be transmitted live on the Borough Councils website,Cllr Declan Bree said at the Budget meeting of Sligo Borough Council.
Cllr Bree made the call as the County Manager continues to pay a Wicklow based consultant approximately €1,000 per meeting to observe the behaviour of councillors
"A number of councils in Ireland now broadcast full webcasts of their meetings. However I believe this Council could commence with audio transmissions and if sufficient funding became available in the future we could upgrade to full webcasts." said Cllr Bree.
"Currently the County Manager is paying out huge sums of money to a chap to sit in the public gallery to record the proceedings of Council meetings.
"If the proceedings of the meetings were transmitted live on the Council website I believe it would save the Council a small fortune and more importantly it would allow the people of this community to adjudicate on the behaviour of councillors, rather than someone who is on the payroll of the County Manager. It would also allow the public to adjudicate on the behaviour of the County Manager and everyone else who participates in Council meetings."
Cllr Bree then proposed:“That in the interest of openness and transparency, the proceedings of Borough Council meetings be transmitted live as an audio transmission on the Borough Councils website, and that a recording of each meeting be retained in an archive which will be available on the website, and that the sum required to fund such a project be deducted from the budget for the hire of private consultants.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Chris MacManus. Following disucssion the matter was deferred to the February meeting of the Council so as to allow for an examination of the Council's Standing Orders and to have a costing provided by the Council's IT Department.
RESIDENTS IN Cranmore had concerns that the Community Wardens were to be laid off before Christmas and at the time I contacted ULA Deputy Joan Collins to raise the matter with the Minister for the Environment, Cllr Declan Bree told a meeting of Sligo Borough Council.
"The Minister told her that funding was initially provided from the Sustainable Communities Fund for the Community Warden Scheme. He said the Borough Council sought approval in 2010 to use Regeneration Funding to support the Community Wardens Scheme and approval to this effect issued in August 2011. The Minister said that €72,954 had been provided for the Wardens in 2011 and that his Department will review the continued funding arrangements for the scheme in the context regeneration work programme for this year.
"Given the valuable work the Community Wardens carry out in Cranmore I feel confident that the Minister will continue to fund the scheme.
"During the period 2008 to 2010 the total cost of the Community Warden scheme in Cranmore was €163,350. In contrast in the same period over €1million was provided to cover the salaries of the staff in the Regeneration Office in Cranmore. In addition the Regeneration office separately paid out a sum of €115,000 in Technical fees in respect of the grass mounds in the estate which still remain in place, and over €260,000 was paid in fees to consultants.
"In this context it is clear that the Community Wardens clearly provide value for money." he said.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion:- “That the Borough Council, recognising the valuable work carried out by the community wardens confirms that it will continue to provide matching funds to maintain the community wardens scheme in Cranmore.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Chris MacManus and was unanimously adopted.
IT IS very clear from the draft budget before us this evening that there will be significant cutbacks in a number of areas and these cutbacks will create serious problems for the Council and for the people of this community during the course of the next year, Cllr Declan Bree told the Budget meeting of Sligo Borough Council
"The new government of Fine Gael and Labour is now imposing the same type of cuts as the outgoing crowd.
"I have to say that I find it unacceptable that the Government can cut back on local government services and on health services; that they can cut the pay to ordinary working people, that they can cut the fuel allowance for the elderly; cut disability payments; cut child benefits for large families; cut back the school clothing and footwear allowance; cut back community employment schemes and cuts rent supplements while at the very same time they can provide billions to bail out the bankers and the speculators, the very people who have caused the economic crisis.
"The government would have us believe that the ordinary people of this country caused the economic crisis so as to justify their savage cut backs. I believe that this lie must be rejected.
"It is also clear from the draft budget that the new Household Charge will not result in any additional funds for local authorities as it is set to replace a similar amount that was formerly paid to local councils by the exchequer.
"The Government has been trying to con people into believing that the Household Tax is to be used to supplement the funding to local authorities to improve local services. But that is a lie.
"There will be no additional funding for local authorities. The Household Tax is not about paying for public services. It is about paying off the debts of rogue developers, bankers and speculators.
"The tax is part and parcel of the government and EU/IMF diet of cutbacks and austerity that has seen a slashing of our living standards and has only helped deepen the economic crisis.
"The Government expects every household to register for the tax so the most effective way to defeat this now poll tax is by refusing to register and by refusing to pay. Why should we have to pay the private debts of speculators, developers and bankers." said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion “Alarmed that the Local Government Fund General Purpose grant for Sligo Borough Council has been reduced by 8.98%, and further recognising that the Government is spending billions of Euro bailing out banks and developers, this Council calls on the Government and the Minister for the Environment to provide the necessary funding for this Borough Council to carry out its statutory duties.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Arthur Gibbons and adopted.
IS IT ANY WONDER that Sligo County Council is now considered a basket-case, Cllr Declan Bree asked when speaking at the annual budget meeting of the Council this week.
“The draft Annual Budget which has been presented to us by the County Manager can only be described as yet another work of fantasy.” said Cllr Bree.
“It is very similar to the Budget presented to us last year, and the previous year, and the year before that – budgets that bear no resemblance to reality and budgets that have plunged this Council into spiralling debt.
“At budget meetings we as councillors are warned that if we include proposals for expenditure or income which the Manager believes is unattainable, that the Minister for the Environment will be advised and that the elected Council could leave itself open to being abolished.
“However year after year the County Manager produces Budgets which are clearly unattainable.
“At the end of 2008 there was a deficit balance of €4.2 million. After adopting the Managers budget in 2009 this Council ended up with a deficit €7.5 million. When it adopted the Managers budget for 2010 the Council ended up with a deficit of almost €10 million; and according to the most recent information, the Managers budget which was adopted for 2011 will increase the deficit by another €2.8 million and bring the total revenue deficit up to €12.8 million.
“These figures clearly confirm that the budgets which the County Manger presents to the elected council each year are absurd and unattainable. This does not happen in any other County Council in the country. It’s as if the Management of this Council was living in a parallel universe - and it makes a mockery of the Budget exercise we as councillors participate in each year.” Cllr Bree said.
“In addition, 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. We were told then that the main reasons for the loan and overdraft totaling €18 million was due to 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.
“However despite the fact that the Council borrowed the money to clear the €7.5 million deficit last year, we discovered this year that the deficit was not cleared.
“And it should also be noted that this year the County Manger recommended to the Council that the overdraft be increased from €3 million, then to €5 million, then to €7.5 million and then to the current €11million overdraft.
“And now we have this draft Budget before us today, which can only be described as another work of fantasy and which will lead to further increased interest repayments and another huge deficit at the end of 2012.
“Unfortunately the major political parties on this Council find this acceptable
“Is it any wonder that Sligo County Council is now considered a basket-case. If any business in the private sector behaved in such a fashion it would have gone to the wall long ago.
“And the question we have to ask the County Manger is: Why is Sligo County Council the only Council in the entire country where the revenue deficit is consistently increasing year by year?
“There are 34 County and City Councils in the state, and there are 34 County and City Managers. In this context I believe it is reasonable to ask the Sligo County Manager: Why is Sligo the only Council in the country where the revenue deficit is consistently increasing year by year?” said Cllr Bree
THE GOVERNMENT'S new household tax is unfair, unjust, immoral and must be resisted, Cllr Declan Bree said when he spoke at a meeting of the Campaign against Household and Water Taxes at the weekend.
“The government expects each household to register for the tax and to send the tax payment directly to the government. Fines and court proceedings have been threatened if people refuse to register to pay the tax. Contrast this with the manner in which the government has dealt with the bankers, developers and speculators who have ruined our economy. How many of them have been fined or jailed?
“This is the opportunity many homeowners have sought - to have their say against all the cut backs and austerity that has been foisted on them. Unlike the universal social charge, the cutbacks, and all the other measures which have taken money out of our pockets, this is something on which we will have a choice. We can boycott the tax by refusing to register.”
“I will certainly not register for the tax and I will not pay this tax. And I will appeal to people in the community to take similar action.” declared Cllr Bree.
“This is not about paying for public services. This is about paying the bank debt. The new household tax, like the universal social charge, and the ongoing cuts in health and public services is 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.
“A pensioner or low paid worker will pay the same as a millionaire. By any standard of fairness, it is wrong that the household tax will be imposed on people regardless of their ability to pay. One hundred euro may not seem a lot to government ministers who believe it is appropriate to pay advisers in excess of €135,000. To the unemployed or working poor, however, it represents a significant burden.
“Across the state a major campaign is being built to oppose this tax. The Campaign against Household and Water Taxes will be based on a refusal to register and a refusal to pay this new poll tax. Building this campaign will need the active involvement of ordinary people both urban and rural.” said Cllr Bree.
AT ITS monthly meeting the members of Sligo Borough Council adopted a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree calling on Health Minister James Reilly, to meet with a deputation from the Save Our Cancer Service campaign group
Addressing the meeting Cllr Bree said “Six months ago the Save our Cancer Services campaign group wrote to the new Minister for Health Dr James Reilly, with a request that he meet with a deputation to discuss the restoration of the Breast Cancer service in Sligo General Hospital.
“Given that Minister Reilly and the Tanaiste Mr Eamon Gilmore, and Minister of State John Perry, and Deputy Tony McLoughlin, and Senators Imelda Henry, Susan O’Keeffe and Michael Comiskey, had all given solemn commitments that the Breast Cancer service would be restored to Sligo, the campaign group was understandably concerned with the lack of progress in delivering on the commitments.
“Their concern grew to dismay last month when the Minister refused to accede to their request for a meeting. The excuse he offered to the Cancer campaigners was that he had a ‘very heavy schedule of government and departmental business’.
“Surely this can only be described as an insult to everyone in Sligo and the region who have campaigned for the breast cancer services in recent year.
“Last month when there was a proposal to close down a Community Nursing Home in Abbeyleix, the government deputy from the area Charlie Flanagan T.D. organised a meeting between a local deputation and the Minister for Health within 72 hours.
“This is a constituency with five government Oireachtas members - a Minister of State, a Dail Deputy and three Senators. What in goodness name are the doing? Have they no clout? Have they no influence? Or do they just not care?” asked Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion which was unanimously adopted: “Concerned at the refusal of the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly T.D., to meet with a deputation from the Save Our Cancer Services NW to discuss the re-opening of the Breast Cancer Service in Sligo General Hospital; and recognising the pressing need to have the service restored; this Council calls on the Minister for Health to reverse his decision and to meet with the deputation from the Save Our Cancer Services committee without undue delay; and further this Council calls on Government Oireachtas members from the area to make the necessary representations to ensure that the meeting with the Minister takes place.”
SLIGO COUNTY Council pays the highest resurfacing costs in the country for the resurfacing of roads under the Roads Restoration Maintenance Programme, Cllr Declan Bree told this month meeting of Sligo County Council.
“Last year Sligo County Council paid an average of €10.87 per square metre for the resurfacing of Regional Roads while Clare County Council paid an average of €3.78 per square metre, Louth paid an average of €4.38 per square metre and Leitrim paid an average of €4.76 per square metre.
“And last year Sligo County Council paid an average of €11.53 per square metre for the resurfacing of Local Roads while Cavan County Council paid an average of €2.72 per square metre, Mayo paid an average of €3.72 per square metre and Roscommon paid an average of €4.56 per square metres.” Cllr Bree told the meeting.
“Information held by the Department of Transport will confirm that other counties can resurface three to four miles of road for the sum it costs Sligo County Council to resurface one mile.
“The County Manager told us at our last meeting that the work carried out by Sligo County Council was of a much higher standard than in other counties and that it represented good value for money.
“However, as far as I am concerned that is nonsense and unacceptable. We are not taking about rocket science here. We know that that the Department of Transport and the NRA set down the same standards for all local authorities. These standards were put in place by the Department specifically to ensure that public monies were not squandered.
“And it’s clear that the Minister and the Department doesn’t accept the County Manager’s view that we are getting good value for money.
“Because Sligo and a small number of other councils couldn’t justify the exorbitant costs they were paying for resurfacing, the Minister was obliged to intervene this year, and the Department set maximum costs of €4.50 and €5.50 per square metre for surface dressing for local and regional roads respectively.
“The Department has also made it clear in its Circular that where these rates are exceeded without sufficient explanation a Council’s grant will be reduced by an amount equal to the excess cost. This has major implications for Sligo given the fact that the County Manager believes it is acceptable and good value to pay €11.83 per square metre for resurfacing.
“Recognising that Sligo can ill afford to lose out on grant aid from the Department for the resurfacing of our roads I am now proposing that this Council calls on the County Manager to comply with the requirements as set out in the Department Circular.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion: “Recognising that Sligo County Council pays the highest resurfacing costs in the country for the resurfacing of roads under the Roads Restoration Maintenance Programme; and noting that Sligo County Council paid an average of €10.87 per square metre in 2010 for the resurfacing of Regional Roads while Clare County Council paid an average of €3.78 per square metre; and noting that Sligo County Council paid an average of €11.53 per square metre in 2010 for the resurfacing of Local Roads while Cavan County Council paid an average of €2.72 per square metre; and noting that the Department of Transport by way of Circular letter (RLR 2/2011)has set maximum costs of €4.50 and €5.50 per square metre for surface dressing for local and regional roads respectively; and further noting with concern that the Circular states that where these rates are exceeded a Council’s grant will be reduced by an amount equal to the excess cost; this Council calls on the County Manger to comply with the requirements as set out in the Department Circular.” The motion was seconded by Cllr Sean MacManus.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors attempted to justify the council’s exorbitant road costs and voted down Cllr Bree's motion.
THE MEMBERS of Sligo County Council supported a motion tabled by Cllr Declan Bree at this month’s meeting of the Council, calling on the government to reinstate funding to PwDI - People with Disabilities Ireland.
Addressing the meeting Cllr Bree said, “Last month the Labour Party Minister of State Kathleen Lynch T.D. announced that the government was withdrawing all funding to People with Disabilities in Ireland – PwDI,and she said she had established a new National Disability Strategy Implementation Group for people with disabilities.
“The government decision can only be described as outrageous. It will plunge people with disabilities back into the days when they had no voice, nor say in decisions made at both local and national levels and had little contact with each other.
“The decision will not only affect PwDI, but a significant group of smaller disability groups who were helped by PwDI to host conferences and events that were out of their reach as stand alone disability groups.” Cllr Bree said.
“People with Disabilities in Ireland, PwDI, is the only national cross disability organisation. Its ambition has been to help all people with disabilities to take part in and influence the decision making process that impacts on their lives and opportunities.
“It is an organisation for all people with disabilities, whether those disabilities are physical, sensory, intellectual or emotional/mental health and it also welcomed the involvement of parents, carers, siblings, partners and disability groups.
“PwDI has a national network of local committees who raise and address local issues and organise events such as conferences and activities for members. It offers a bottom up model of giving members a louder voice to raise issues on a national stage.
“PwDI has over 8,000 members and affiliated organisations, 26 local network committees across Ireland with many giving their time on a voluntary basis to build the organisation
“Since its formation over ten years ago the Sligo Network Committee of PwDI has been pro active in all areas of Disability within the county. They have lobbied and advocated on behalf of their members with regard to Access, Employment, Transport, Health, Planning and Development and any issues brought to their attention by their members.
“The Network has significant links with the HSE and the Local Authorities. They have three representatives on the Sligo Borough Council Access Committee, also three representatives on this Council’s Disability Consultative Group, a representative on the HSE Regional Co-ordinating Committee, a Director on the Sligo Sport & Recreation Partnership, a Director on the Sligo Citizens Information Board, a member on Sligo Community Forum, a member on HSE Regional Data Base Committee and the HSE Care Group. And their Board Member, Mr Oliver Durkin represents PWDI nationally on an Advisory Group within the Department of Social Protection.
“I am aware that their involvement with the Borough Council Access Committee has resulted in many access issues being resolved successfully. In addition, their input into the County Council Disability Consultative Group has highlighted many issues regarding Employment, Transport, Housing and Access in the county.” said Cllr Bree.
Cllr Bree then proposed the following motion which was unanimously adopted: “Recognising that over the past decade the PwDI (People with Disabilities in Ireland) has been accepted by statutory and non statutory organisations and agencies as being the acknowledged expert voice of people with disabilities in Ireland, this Council expresses its dismay at the government decision to withdraw all funding from the organisation; and recognising that PwDI is the umbrella organisation which brings people together locally and nationally to work on common issues that affect all people with disabilities, this Council calls on the government to reconsider its decision and to reinstate the funding without further delay.”