Some Laois County Councillors were in celebratory humour after reading the council’s annual financial statement for last year, while others said the council would get no credit for it.
“I’d like to congratualte the manager and the finance section, there is not too many councils in the same position,” Cllr John Joe Fennelly said, the first to offer his congratulations on the council’s €5,000 surplus for 2012.
Cllr Ray Cribbin added: “I have to commend Gerry Murphy, you have to take your hat off to him. To have a €5,000 surplus at the end of the year, we are lucky to have him.
BUt Cllr Jerry Lodge was not in celebratory mood.
“You have been preaching austerity to us for the last three or four years, services are being curtailed year after year.” He continued: “What credit are you going to get for a €5,000 surplus? You will get no credit, but you will still be expected to give a reasonable level of service to people.
“You deliver a far better level of expenditure when people see where the money is going. They won’t praise finance for cutbacks,” he said.
Cllr Lodge added: “If you go to any Town Council, the engineers response is always maybe next year, there is no money in the budget this year.”
“You have balanced the books, but at what cost,” Cllr Brendan Phelan queried.
“There are no houses being built, little repairs being done. The state of the roads is at an all time low. The books are balanced, but people are not happy with the level of service,” he said.
“You can’t spend it, if you don’t have it, enough of that went on at national level with outrageous spending,” Cllr Tom Mulhall told his colleagues on the other side of the council chambers.
While, Cllr Willie Aird said he wasn’t surprised the council had money left over at the end of last year. “It’s terrible hard to get money out of ye,” he told the council administration.
He warned the council about the efforts to get money from people who are already struggling.
“Minds have to be safeguarded. To get in money, a lot of people have to suffer. They are ringing me, asking me to get the council to lay off. We have to be careful in what you’re doing.
“The valuation on houses is still to high. What might have been €365,000 in the boom, is now down to €40,000 or €50,000.”
He added: “You’re cuckooing over results, but things haven’t changed for people.”
The county manager, Peter Carey, said the council were under a statutory obligation to balance their books.
“It requires forensic analysis now, we have to make quarterly returns to the IMF, if there was a discrepancy they are straight onto Gerry (Murphy). To balance the books year on year is an on-going challenge. It’s not that we’re sitting on money. The finance officers deserve great credit for achieving that when we find out half way through the year that there is half a million euro gone from the budget.”
The manager said he would not take any negativity about the council finances.
“I am proud to say that we achieved the balance, I don’t accept the negative approach.”