Cllrs want answers on pay parking cash gap

Joan Martin says she has a plan and councillors want to hear it

Barry Landy

Reporter:

Barry Landy

Email:

barry.landy@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Cllrs want answers on pay parking cash gap

Tomas Sharkey wants "robust, current and correct" info.

Motorists in Dundalk will not be affected by the news that Drogheda's parking bye-laws are "legally unsatisfactory" - but Dundalk councillors want to know how Louth County Council plan on making up the €300,000 in revenue set to be lost with parking suspended in the town.

Last week, council Chief Executive Joan Martin revealed that parking charges in Drogheda were to be suspended for a period of around three months, citing that the bye-laws in place in the town were legally "unsatisfactory."

The decision came after an appeal from a member of the public questioning the legal validity of the bye-laws. After the council received legal counsel on the matter, they chose to adopt new bye- laws which are expected to ready to be considered by June.

In a statement, Martin confirmed there would be a loss of revenue over that period. "I estimate that the Council will suffer a reduction of at least €300,000 in its income over that 3 month period," she said.

"In relation to the loss of income I have examined all options including the option of bringing proposals to Council for cuts in expenditure to the 2018 Budget to meet the shortfall, which would be most undesirable.

"However, I have been able to identify a number of sources to meet the sum involved," she said, "and consequently hope to be able to avoid any cuts to the 2018 Budget. My proposals on how to deal with this particular matter will be detailed at the next meeting of Louth County Council.

However, that lead councillors at last week's Dundalk Municipal District to ask how the council intended to make up that massive loss in revenue, in light of the unexpected revelation about parking in Drogheda. Sinn Fein councillor Tomas Sharkey believes a county-wide project is set to suffer.

"The Chief Executive has a plan in her head," he said. "I can only assume the deficit is going to be filled by a country-wide project. I want a marker put down now. What I expect to see from the Chief Executive is an amendment to the 2018 budget. The decision was made in 2002 and it was not water-tight. We as councillors depend on the information put in front of us to be robust, current and correct," he continued.

"If we don't have that, we are not making informed decisions. If we do not have the information, we do not have credibility in the decisions we make."

Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle queried what impact the decision in Drogheda would have on pay-parking in Dundalk. She asked if the bye -laws in Dundalk were sound and also asked where the local authority planned on making up the shortfall in revenue.

"This is a significant development," she said. "It's going to cost the council €300,000 - which is money if any councillor asked for, we'd be told to take a running jump."

In response, Director of Services Frank Pentony said, "We did ask for legal advice and the advice was there was nothing wrong in Dundalk. The Dundalk bye laws are fine."

"I think it requires urgent debate of all members," Mark Dearey added. Work is now under way on the preparation of new Draft Bye Laws for Drogheda. In their 2018 Budget, it was estimated that the council would bring in just under €2.3 million in parking charges and fines in 2018.

The situation in Drogheda will dent any hopes of meeting that projection.