Louth County Council have admitted they cut funding to Dundalk Women’s Aid without seeking clarification regarding the guidelines from the Department of the Environment.
A number of local councillors now believe that the threatened closure of Dundalk Women’s Aid refuge in April could have been avoided after a recent letter from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government detailed its position on funding allocations.
At special meetings in April, councillors were informed by council officials that funding had been cut as a result of a directive from the Department which set out a national target of 4.4% for domestic violence refuges.
At the time it was feared that the refuge, which serves a number of counties in the North East, would close but subsesquently funding was allocated from Dundalk Town Council and Louth County Council.
However it now appears that the initial decision to cut funding was taken without consulting the relevant department. In a letter to the Louth County Council, the Department of the Environment stated that these figures are indicative and suggestive.
The council confirmed this week tat no clarification had been sought on this issue.
When asked if the council regretted not seeking clarification, the council stated; “No. It should be noted that funding allocation was for all homeless services and it was to be decided by LCC how all of that funding was to be allocated.”
This paper also asked if they council accepted that the Dundalk Women’s Aid crisis could have been avoided if clarification was sought.
The council replied; “Not necessarily, as above, in that decisions made were within the context of the total allocation made to Louth for the Region, which for 2014 was approximately €1m.”
Local councillors Edel Corrigan and Maria Doyle are both furious at the council.
“I am disappointed at the lack of correspondence and communication on this issue,” said Cllr Corrigan.
“The confusion caused much concern, stress and anxiety for those involved particularly for women whom avail of the services. We need to ensure nothing like this happens again.
Cllr Doyle says that she will be raising the issue at the next meeting of Louth County Council and Dundalk Municipal District.
“The directive got the blame at that time. The council decided to use the directive as a cap, rather than a guide,” Cllr Doyle stated. “Councillors specifically asked at meetings if this was the maximum figure. We were told that it was. Effectively, we were told inaccurate information by the council.”
Cllr Doyle added that she will be writing to the new Minister for Housing regarding the issue.