Letters to both the Department of Local Government and the Auditor of Local Government complaining about the level of funding received by Longford Town Council have been sent in recent days, despite apparent opposition from the County Manager.
The letters relate to a dispute over the payment of Non Principal Private Residence from Longford County Council to the Town Council, which is estimated to be in the region of €200,000 per year. Currently, the Town Council receives €60,000.
Following on from the previous two meetings, where councillors unanimously agreed to contact the Minister for Local Government and to the Local Government Auditors, the matter was raised this week once more.
Cllr Alan Mitchell, who has been to the forefront in seeking the payment, asked the Town Clerk, Dan Rooney, at this month’s meeting on the progress being made with regard to the letters.
Mr Rooney replied that the letters had not been sent, and when the Town Clerk was pushed further for answer as to why, Mr Rooney replied that he was directed not to do so by the County Manager.
Councillors, enraged by an apparent veto of a decision they made, demanded that the letters be sent. If there was not an agreement, a special meeting would be called whereby they would effectively send the letters themselves.
However, following a consultation between the County Manager and the Town Clerk on Thursday morning last, it agreed to forward the letters.
Speaking to the Leader, Mr Rooney described it as a “misunderstanding between the two of us”. Mr Rooney added that the Manager did give an undertaking before that whatever was due under the NPPR would be paid to the Town Council.
At the previous month’s meeting, Cllr Mitchell raised the issue saying that he wasn’t impressed by the response from the County Council to the NPPR.
“Issues were raised in that press release, from what I can gather, that were of no relevance. Issues as to whether or not the local government fund is affected is of no relevance to the legal position,” said Cllr Mitchell, who suggested that the County Council should get legal advice in relation to responsibilities under the NPPR Act.
“Whoever drafted up that press release clearly doesn’t understand the NPPR. It leads me to a view that the NPPR is looked at being a little bit like a slush fund to help the county council balance its books, which is not what it’s intended for,” said Cllr Mitchell.
He added that any reduction in the local government fund bears no relevance to the legal position. Cllr Mitchell requested to see a copy of the recent press statement that was released in relation to the NPPR.
He said he believed that the Town Council was due a lot more money under scheme, which he said could be used on roads projects and on reducing rates.