DONEGAL COUNTY COUNCIL has passed its budget by a single vote ahead of tonight’s midnight deadline.
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were against the estimates for 2014 and it appeared likely that the budget would be defeated.
But after Independent John Campbell changed his voting intentions to vote for the Budget and Fianna Fáil’s Rena Donaghey left the meeting due to work commitments there was enough votes to pass it.
It is believed that Campbell was given a number of concessions he was looking for while Donaghey left as she was teaching a computer course.
TheJournal.ie understands that these concessions included increased spending of €250,000 on tourism promotion and €50,000 for the purchase of library books.
The council had met over three days and nights earlier this month, adjourning 21 times, but members were unable to agree on a budget for the year ahead.
Today’s council meeting got under way at 11am with several adjournments and it began with no sign of of councillors changing their positions.
If the budget had not been agreed the council would have been dissolved and Environment Minister Phil Hogan would have had to appoint a commissioner to run the council. Hogan could also give councillors more time, but this appeared unlikely.
Before this evening’s vote, Sinn Féin councillor Mick Quinn said there had been no changes to the budget in recent days and added that unless there was a “miracle” the party will not be supporting it.
“We have a number of reasons for rejecting this budget,” he explained to TheJournal.ie this morning, saying that councillors have “no confidence” that Donegal will not need a supplementary estimate as it did in 2013.
He also hit out at the “imposition of domestic water charges which we were never elected or mandated to accept”.
He continued: “We were elected to serve the people of our communities to the best of our abilities. Adopting this budget will not be doing that,” he said, adding: “If it means we will vote for our P45s today then so be it.”
Blaney said that Irish Water was one of the main reasons for voting against the budget, saying: “We think it’s a bad deal for the people of the county.”
He said that the revelations about €50 million in consultancy fees at the new State utility “strengthens our hand” adding the council has “to send a message”
“We’re standing up for people’s rights,” he said. “We believe we’re not getting enough money for roads in this county…. we should be getting way above what any other county is getting and extra housing maintenance funds for our council staff as well.”
Blaney added that it was up to Hogan as to whether he wanted to dissolve the council, saying that the consultancy fees revelations should prompt him “to take a serious look at it before he thinks of dissolving us”.
Additional reporting by Rónán Duffy
First published 10.51am