Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Wicklow County Council Budget 2016 prioritises footpaths and hedge cutting over housing crisis

Wicklow Sinn Féin’s six County Councillors voted against Wicklow County Councils Budget for 2016. They described it as a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil budget that prioritises footpaths and hedge cutting over the housing crisis. The budget meeting was held on Monday and was framed by €1.9m in cuts from central government, on September 28th Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and some Independents voted to increase the Family Home Tax by 15% in Wicklow, in an attempt to mask the cuts by central government, and try maintain services at 2015 levels.

Speaking after the lengthy budget meeting the Wicklow Sinn Féin group leader on Wicklow County Council John Brady said “At Mondays budget meeting in Wicklow, we seen the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Independent coalition pushing through a budget that was framed by cuts of €1.9m from central government and one that relied on squeezing an extra 15% from hard pressed families across Wicklow through an increase in the Family Home Tax. Sinn Féin put forward a number of measures to help tackle the housing crisis; unfortunately the unsustainable budget that was pushed through prioritises footpaths over housing.”

The Sinn Fein general election candidate went onto to say “At the beginning of the meeting on Monday morning the head of Finance stated that there was an additional €300,000 above what had been accounted for in the draft budget. This came about after the government ceded to the massive pressure that Sinn Féin put them under, to reverse the downward revaluation of rates for utility companies. The government decided to freeze the downward revaluation for 2015, if allowed go through, this would have seen an additional loss of €21m in funding to Local Authorities across the State, resulting in an overall loss to Wicklow of €362,276.”

Brady went onto say “The retention of this €300,000 by the council is welcome and provided the council an opportunity to do something meaningful to address the housing crisis. My colleague Councillor Nicola Lawless put forward a plan to invest this money into housing, which is a priority area for us, as the housing crisis continues to escalate; we proposed creating a €150,000 fund to install central heating in our social houses that don’t have any, €100,000 additional towards Disabled Persons Grants in both public and private houses. We also wanted an additional €50,000 to go towards Homeless services.”

“At the meeting it was unbelievable to see how out of touch with reality Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and so called Independents really are. They chose to use the €300,000 as footpath fund, and a fund for pet projects and for cutting hedges, and only paying lip service towards the housing crisis. They chose to put €100,000 into a footpath fund and €50,000 towards cutting hedges along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystones. It is unbelievable that when we have a housing crisis, people freezing in their homes and people with disabilities struggling to live in their homes because there is no funding to carry out essential modifications within their homes, that the priorities of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and some Independents are footpaths and hedges.”

The Sinn Féin councillor concluded “The six Sinn Féin councillors voted against the budget which was carried by 21 votes to 9, with 2 absent. Funding to Wicklow County Council has been cut year on year, this year we were down €1.9m. Its unjust screwing the ordinary people of Wicklow with a Family Home Tax, in September Sinn Féin voted against the decision to increase the Family Home Tax by 15% to mask the cuts from central government. People simply can’t afford to pay a home tax to prop up councils that are grossly underfunded. By rejecting the budget we rejected the Family Home Tax and the 15% increase. We also rejected the gross under funding of Wicklow County Council, the annual cuts to its core funding and the prioritisation of footpaths and hedge cutting over housing.” Ends

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