Public representatives cannot face the people of Laois when the council is spending up to €2million upgrading public lighting as people face homelessness every day, according to a county councillor.
Cllr Brendan Phelan called for the €2million for lights to be postponed and put straight into housing. He was speaking at the council's revenue Budget meeting for 2019 on Monday, November 12.
“You could not go out and face the electorate and say we are going to put €2 million [into lighting] and how many sites could you buy for housing for that? How can we be prepared to go out and spend €2 million on upgrading lighting with people homeless every day of the week?” he said.
This comes as Laois County Council's revenue Budget (day to day spending) for 2019 stands at €72.05 million.
Calls were made for Laois County Council to address the current housing crisis by making cash available for houses instead of following EU rules for lighting.
Cllr Brendan Phelan said the money should be spent on sites for people to build houses.
“We are giving the wrong impression completely and I know you are coming under pressure for energy and carbon footprint and all the rest but no way unless it's going to be grant aided from government how can we be prepared to go out and spend € 2 million on upgrading lighting with people homeless every day of the week?
“I agree it is the way to go with lighting and the carbon footprint but to go out and say we are going to spend €2m we should say we are postponing that alone and we are going to put that funding into purchase sites.
“There is no point in saying we are going to improve our public lighting with people homeless all over the county,” he said.
County Manager John Mulholland said the lighting is ‘international protocol’.
“There will be a payback by the end of a particular period and what we have to pay on public lighting will be less which means we can put more into other areas and I think that is logical, it is a matter of timing,” Mr Mulholland replied.
Cllr Phelan called for these regulations to be 'kicked back' at the EU as other countries have done.
“The major problem we have as elected public representative at the moment is people are homeless and we have to be seen to be trying to address that. Kick it back to the EU, kick it back, every other country is kicking it back,” he said.
Laois County Council revenue Budget for 2019 stands at €72.05 million. Of this, €12.38 million is allocated for housing and building.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said this budget is just ‘covering the cracks’ of a homeless crisis that she cannot see a solution to.
“I don’t know how it is going to be solved, it is only getting worse. The Budget figures speak for themselves - we expect this to get worse.
"There are people left in impossible situations and they jump the housing list before people who are waiting years. This budget is really only covering the cracks there is no solution in this budget. I can’t see any progress this will be worse next year unless we have bricks, mortar and land, I can’t see an answer,” she said.
Laois County Council expects the housing situation to get worse, particularly in the area of homelessness and emergency accommodation.
It has increased its budget for homelessness grants from €263,805 last year to €325,000 next year, an increase of €62,000.