The three Municipal Districts of the county - Longford, Ballymahon and Granard - have been allocated a total of €90,000 each in GMA funding for 2021.
Head of Finance and Regeneration with Longford County Council gave a presentation in three separate MD meetings last week, proposing that the funds be allocated in two phases - €45,000 now and another €45,000 in July 2021.
“Nationally, many local authorities are suspending General Municipal Allocations altogether or they’re reducing them substantially,” Mr McKeon explained.
“Longford County Council are feeling the effects of Covid, like every other local authority and are battling with the financial effects of that. We have our own very unique, very substantial challenges as well.”
This year’s allocation is a 3.2% drop on last year, when each Municipal District was allocated a total of €93,000.
“The Longford model back in 2018 was predicated on a rise in the General Municipal Allocation. So you know the successes of the Longford model. In 2017 the General Municipal Allocation stood at €58,000 per Municipal District,” said Mr McKeon.
“In 2018 we rose to €93,000 per Municipal District as part of the Longford model.
“We have a very, very strong working relationship here between the executive and the members and in my book, this General Municipal Allocation is one of the biggest pillars of that and this should be kept intact at all costs.
“So I’m not proposing to abolish it or cut it. I’m just proposing to allocate it in a couple of stages this year.”
Mr McKeon proposed that the funding for 2021 be allocated in two sums of €45,000, which would give the council the opportunity to review and plan for the second lot of funding in July.
“I think it’s probably a prudent approach. We’ll be able to take account of the situation in July. That’s what I’m proposing,” said Mr McKeon.
“Hopefully we’ll be in a better place and the worst will be behind us and we’ll be able to allocate the moneys and have the moneys interchangeable between the sub services so, for example, the town twinning may be able to subvent voluntary bodies grants or vice versa and it’ll all be interchangeable and we’ll be able to react to that when we find ourselves nearer to the time.”
Members of all three Municipal Districts were happy to accept the proposal but there were grumblings of a need for support from national government.
“Unlike most other Local Authorities, we are retaining the General Municipal Allocation and I think it’s a prudent way to distribute it the way John has suggested there,” said Cllr Gerry Warnock at the Longford MD meeting.
“But I would just like the opportunity to say that it’s deeply disconcerting, this whole message that’s coming down from central government that they will not come and look and value Local Authoritiess and the work that Local Authorities s are doing and I would argue the important role that we are going to have in a post-Covid world.
“I think it’s absolutely shocking that they do not realise the value of local government, how we’ve been on the frontline throughout this whole crisis and how we’re going to be needed yet again for the reconstruction of the economy, for the reconstruction of society in a post-Covid world.
“They should be increasing our national allocations, nevermind docking us on what we’re already getting.
“And I throw it out there to national politicians in all parts of Ireland to look at the government to look at the value of local government. To look at what could potentially happen to the local government sector if national government does not get behind us and adequately fund us.
“We’re just looking for bare retention of funding. We would like, of course, additional moneys to deal with Covid, but all we want to do is hold what we had last year and that is the message that I would like to go out there to our national government: look after our local governments who are grassroots and who are looking after the people in the real world.”
Cathaoirleach of Longford MD, Cllr Peggy Nolan, was quick to agree that members of Longford County Council should “lobby our national politicians in our county and ask them to make it a national issue”.
However, she added, Longford is “punching way above its weight” and was in a strong financial position before Covid hit.
“The way our finances were measured, were managed, they’ve been copied right across the country,” she said.
“I want to thank John and his team for having us in the situation we’re in, that we don’t have to discontinue the grants because, like Gerry said, it’s the pillars to show the public how much we can do for them at this level and that they are foremost in the running of local government.
“I have every confidence that we will be able to weather the storm. But we can’t weather the storm alone. It has to be a national effort with regards to the funding that’s being cut. That has to be addressed and the message has to go out from this Local Authority - a letter to the AILG - to lobby on our behalf and on behalf of all local authorities and all Local Authority members that the government will not see any cuts to the funding that we need to carry out the business that we were elected to do.”