Killoughey based Fine Gael Councillor Neil Feighery has excoriated the proposed “inappropriate use” of the Tullamore Municipal District’s discretionary fund on a “session on New Year’s Eve that will only benefit public houses adjacent to O’Connor Square.”
“When this proposal was first mooted by Cllr Tony McCormack during an in-committee monthly meeting, I immediately expressed grave reservations about allocating scarce public funds to this event. I questioned Cllr McCormack on whether he had examined the potential for some of the public houses set to directly benefit from this event to contribute a proportion of the associated costs. Cllr McCormack said that it would not be possible and added that if it was a success then that could be examined for next year,” he said in a statement issued to the Tribune this week.
He continued: “I serve on the district’s sub-committee with the Cathaoirleach of the district, Cllr Frank Moran and Cllr Danny Owens. The committee is charged with deciding the overall policy with regard to the distribution of the district’s discretionary funds from Offaly County Council which amounts to a total of €177,000 annually.
“The grants are typically allocated in sums of €300-500 to community groups across the district and as a volunteer for many years I am aware of the challenges for community groups to constantly fundraise and stay afloat. These grants are a very welcome source of funding to support their efforts.
“Following the establishment of the municipal district structure with the local government reforms of 2014, it was agreed to give councillors full discretion in the allocation of the fund. I want to emphasise that this money is the only discretionary funding at our disposal on Tullamore Municipal District over a 12 month period.
“In the last term, the district councillors sensibly in my opinion decided to direct €100,000 of this fund annually to large projects across the district, including to Mucklagh Community Centre. Last year €50,000 was allocated towards the need for substantial waste water upgrade works at Cappincur Industrial Estate in recognition of the huge contribution the businesses therein make to our local economy.
“At our sub-committee meeting in September a decision was made on the €47,000 that had been earmarked for various community groups and initiatives in the last term; and that for various reasons was not drawn down. We decided to add the fund to the 2020 discretionary fund which would give us €224,000 next year to allocate to large projects and community groups across the district from Tubber to Cappincur, from Killoughey Cross to Durrow, from Pullough to Mucklagh and everywhere in between.
“Instead this decision was torpedoed by the Fianna Fáil councillors at the in-committee meeting that immediately followed.
“People need to know what is being proposed and decide for themselves if this is how they want their hard-earned money to be spent. A two hour concert in the revamped O’Connor Square that is being sold as a family friendly event is going to cost over €27,000 to stage.
”Every other councillor agreed at the October monthly meeting to allocate €25,000 of funds, earmarked for community funds to this event.
“My intention is not to pour cold water on a celebration for our town on the 400th anniversary of the signing of the town charter on New Year’s Eve but there are so many talented local musicians that would happily participate at a fraction of the costs as agreed at the October meeting. I believe this money should be shared amongst a number of local artists to provide music amenable to all tastes and genres.
“I have expressed my concerns in private to my councillor colleagues, there are genuine concerns with regard to proper governance and procurement. €10,000 has been assigned to cover the cost of entertainment, a further €10,000 is being assigned to the installation of a special audio visual screen erected on the balcony of the library to support the band. A further €6,000-7,000 has been earmarked for promoting the event.
“I think this is a scandalous use of scarce resources. The concert will benefit a small few business interests and do nothing for the retailers who are bearing the brunt of the temporary disturbances during this construction phase. The weather is very unpredictable at this time of year and inclement weather conditions could make the event unsuitable for young and old. Do the organisers have contingencies in place in the event of inclement weather?
“This has been a tough year for all the great local businesses in Tullamore whose rates provide this exact funding. Given the huge forbearance shown by businesses, I think it would be far more appropriate to use whatever additional funding at our disposal to devise a fair rates alleviation scheme for businesses who have been negatively impacted by the major town enhancement works.
“Additionally a major issue of concern that came up consistently during the recent local election campaign was the urgent need for a new traffic light system on Collins Lane at the entrance to Ballin Rí and at the crossing point to the Tullamore Educate Together school. I have obtained estimates that it will cost the district approximately €100,000 to install a new traffic light system and pedestrian crossing at this location. The town park is a credit to the town but it is clear for all to see that the toilet facilities need urgent upgrades. That is just in Tullamore town. I think we have a duty to set aside any additional revenues to projects that will have a lasting impact in our area.
“An ambitious committee in Killeigh formed recently to redevelop the old Macra na Feirme Hall and deliver a modern community centre for this growing vibrant community. All of these projects require funding from the district in conjunction with funding streams from central Government.”
Concluded Cllr Feighery: “5,100 Tullamore people or 47% of the people who voted in May, cast their first preference for Fianna Fáil. The party has 4 out of the 7 seats in our district. They can push through any measure they choose but I want it on record that I firmly object to this charade.”