“I’ve come in here and been told it’s a €20,000 slush fund to each councillor,” fumed Cllr Willie Aird, before going on to claim that “this is going to end up as an auction”.
The first draft budget meeting since the reform of local authority certainly got off to a shaky start at County Hall last week. Cllr Aird’s ire was stoked by a suggestion by county manager Gerry Murphy that a total of €140,000 be divided between the seven councillors, with each councillor being allocated €20,000 for them to prioritise its use. Cllr Aird said he was “devastated” by the suggestion and likened the move to giving each councillor “a slush fund”.
“I go out and spend €1,000 here and €1,000 there and we’ll get nothing done. I’m devastated by the officials of County Hall proposing this,” he said.
Cllr Aird said it was his understanding that the meeting had been called for the councillors to prioritise the areas that most needed works.
“We have stated before where immediate work is needed... I’m absolutely devastated - there has to be some proper management here, this is going backwards.”
Mr Murphy responded that the county council was following the correct process in accordance with the local authority review.
“Just to be clear,” said Cllr Aird, “do I have €20,000 to put in my pocket and spend?”
At that point, Cllr Noel Tuohy interjected to say that was the second phrase used by Cllr Aird that he resented, following the earlier allusion to slush funds.
“If I get €20,000 I will spend it on the best causes. I know everyone around this meeting and I would trust any of them with €20,000,” said Cllr Tuohy.