Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc Mac Sharry says urgent action is needed to address debt levels at local authorities across the country. The North West Deputy says some county councils are completely starved of resources and are unable to provide basic services as a result of restrictive plans imposed on them by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
Deputy MacSharry explained, “This is a serious problem, which is having a serious impact on council services across the country. It’s particularly acute in my own county of Sligo, and has been exacerbated by a prohibitive debt reduction plan forced on the council by the Department. This plan ordered a 42% reduction in staff, which to date has reduced payroll costs by €8.5m, but which has also seen the local economy taking a hit.
“Services have suffered massively. Sligo has a proud literary and cultural tradition but because of these drastic budget cuts the Sligo County Library is set to close indefinitely this Saturday, and I have been informed that one of the three libraries in the county will be closed permanently. This will be a massive loss to the community.
“Central Government is abdicating its responsibility to all citizens. People in Sligo should be entitled to the same services as people in Fingal, but unfortunately repressive Department diktats are strangleholding certain councils. You can’t separate an order to reduce staff numbers and the impact that this will have on services on the ground. The situation is Sligo is grave, and it is being replicated in other local authorities across the country.
“Fianna Fáil is considering bringing forward a Private Members Motion in the Dáil calling on the Government to take strategic action to address the local authority debt issue. Ministers cannot stand over a situation where citizens are being discriminated against because they live in a town or county which has a small population and narrower revenue base.
“I, along with my party’s spokesperson on Housing, Planning & Local Government Barry Cowen have written to Minister Simon Coveney seeking an urgent meeting with him and his senior officials to ensure a more equal system for Sligo and other smaller counties”.