After a ten hour debate Wicklow's six Sinn Féin County Councillors voted against the County's 2015 budget saying it was a missed opportunity to make a real difference and help the citizens of the county. Instead the Councillors voted to throw €1,675,925 into a black hole in Wicklow County council.
Speaking after Mondays council meeting the Sinn Fein group leader on the council, councillor John Brady said "At Mondays budget meeting in Wicklow County Council a real opportunity to help the citizens of Wicklow was genuinely squandered by conservatives Councillors in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and some Independents. We were given an unexpected sum of money €2,675,925 from the Non Principle Private Residence Charge (NPPR). Not only did we have an opportunity to give some of that money back to some families who accidentally became landlords and got stung for the NPPR. We also had an opportunity to fill the community deficit by investing all the money in housing and other community focused projects".
Cllr Brady continued "Instead we had a conservative budget adopted by the Old Boys club of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour which sees €1,675,925 thrown into a black hole in the coffers of the council with no benefits to the people of Wicklow. The money will go to partially pay off a deficit that could have been served over a number of years."
Cllr Snell stated "Sinn Féin wanted each of the five Municipal Districts to get an equal share of the €2,675,925, this would have resulted in local projects in each area benefiting to the tune of €460,000 and the remainder going into a fund to give money back to families that may have become accidental landlords with the NPPR. We have missed a real opportunity to tackle the housing crisis and to support and deliver projects a local levels across the County".
Cllr Lawless went onto say "I'm very disappointed that not an extra euro will go into tackling homelessness in the County. This year alone we have had nearly 100 families present themselves as homeless to the council. We could have done something meaningful in trying to address this serious escalating problem. Instead Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and some Independents sided with the conservative view of the County Manager Eddie Sheehy and effectively threw away over €1.6m in funding. I know many homeless families unsure of their future coming up to Christmas won't thank them for that".
The Sinn Fein Councillor in Arklow Mary McDonald was scathing in her criticism of the council "Arklow like many towns across the County has shops closing on a weekly basis, the Main St is fast becoming a ghost town. There was an opportunity in the budget to help the struggling businesses in Arklow and try encourage new ones into the town. Unfortunately all the local Councillors with the exception of myself voted to increase the commercial rates in the Arklow area, this will only serve to compound the serious problems businesses are facing".
Cllr Gerry O'Neill continued "I'm bitterly disappointed for the people I represent in West Wicklow as the majority of Councillors voted to effectively deprive the west of €460,000. We have a very small discretionary budget for the Baltinglass area of €24,000, if we had of received an extra €460,000 it would of been like winning the Lotto. The west is the forgotten part of Wicklow and both infrastructure and community have been neglected over many years, Mondays meeting where this money was thrown away will not be forgotten by the people here and the Councillors responsible have a lot of answers to give".
Cllr Oliver O'Brien concluded "At Mondays budget meeting we had an ideal opportunity to start putting the citizens of Wicklow first and centre stage and to ensure we provided the services, supports and infrastructure that have been neglected over the last 5-6 due to the austerity policies of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour. We got unexpected finances from the NPPR and it was an ideal opportunity to give something back to people and communities that are struggling to keep it together, unfortunately the council voted 19-11 to adopt a budget that really was a missed opportunity".