Clashes over cuts after Waterford council budget passes
After more than nine hours of stalemate on Wednesday, Waterford Council officially passed its budget. Negotiations were lengthy after a mix-up between Irish Water and the Council left a €3m hole in county finances.
After a number of cuts were made and amended, the budget was passed despite Sinn Féin withholding support.
Conor McGuinness, Sinn Féin council group leader, said that the party "did not, and could not, support the proposed austerity budget for Waterford, adding that it is investment and not cuts that are needed."
Councillor McGuinness said: “Since the May election Sinn Féin has worked constructively with a wide range of groups and consulted widely on the budget. We were prepared to craft and pass a progressive and responsible budget that chimed with our political priorities.
“Then, at the 11th hour and with no prior warning, the Council was presented by central government with cuts amounting to a staggering €16.5m over the lifetime of the Council, with a €4m shortfall to be made up this year.
“This was as a result of the fiasco that is Irish Water and a refusal by the government to recognise the difficulty this imposes on the people of Waterford.
“The government then offered a once-off ‘grant’ of €2m, which still left the council facing cuts of €2m this year and next. This meant both rate increases and cuts in services.
“Small businesses would pay more while citizens would see cuts in housing maintenance and economic development. These cuts and increases in rates are unsustainable.
“Waterford City and County will have €14.5m less to spend over the next five years – while at the same time Cork would have an additional €15m, Galway an additional €12m, and Kilkenny an additional €4.5m.”
“Sinn Fein will stand up for Waterford and will fight these cuts until they are reversed by central government. If the government had reversed the cut, Sinn Féin stood ready to support the budget. But they didn’t and as such, we were not in a position to support tonight’s budget," Cllr McGuinness concluded.
On the other side of the argument, Independent councillor Matt Shanahan, said: "Despite probably the worst hand of cards being dealt in recent weeks on Waterford City & County Council, ‘Politics being the art of the possible’ was demonstrated by the passing of the most equitable possible budget considering the circumstances that Waterford has been bounced into.
"Doubtless there will be people who will find fault but they only have to represent themselves whereas those elected have to try to represent the needs of everyone.
"There are many more significant challenges facing Waterford city and county. The budget passing proved that when people put politics aside, work without preconditions and to an agreed objective, success is possible.
"In order for this city and county to flourish it can only happen if people work together. Despite the threat of a Government-appointed administrator, Waterford remains today independently managed and politically represented. Now, can we as a people build on this?" he concluded.