I want to thank the finance team for their work, availability and professionalism over recent weeks.
This Council however is a political institution, and we are tasked with Mmaking political decisions here, in the interest of the people we are elected to serve.
The Sinn Féin council group will not be supporting the draft budget presented to us today.
We cannot accept a situation where Waterford will be hit with a 14.5 million euro budget cut over the lifetime of this council
We will not be supporting a 5% rates increase on businesses.
Sinn Féin councillors are not elected to implement cuts at the behest of a Government that has showed nothing but disdain and disinterest to Waterford and it’s people.
We are not elected to impose increased rates on small and medium businesses that form the backbone of our economy but which are struggling at the moment and facing growing economic uncertainty.
We are not elected to do the dirty work of the confidence and supply government, or to cover up for the ineptitude of a cabinet that consistently disregards our people and is content to impose a disproportionate and damaging cut to Waterford.
This council met in special session earlier this month and passed a resolution that sought engagement with the Minister.
We have not yet had a meeting with the Minister, and his response to this crisis has been weak and inadequate.
A 3.3 million Euro cut every year over the 5 year lifetime of this council amounts to a €16.5 million euro cut. Throw in the Government’s 2 million and we are facing a net 14.5 million euro cut through no fault of our own.
That’s a huge cut to funding for adaptation grants for people with disabilities, for roads maintenance, for climate action, for fixing pavements, improving our public realm, for community groups, for environmental protection, for economic development, for promoting Waterford as an investment destination, for creating jobs and improving the lives of people in Waterford City and County.
We see this cut in the context of decades of Governments failing Waterford and the South East. Over the last decade we have seen our region, our city and our county left behind by a Government that is more focused on selfies and spin than on addressing regional imbalances and ensuring adequate resources and investment for Waterford.
How can we as a council, or we as councillors stand up and advocate for Waterford, call out the Government on its failures, stand with our people against cuts, against underfunding, against indifference and disdain, if we accept a cut of this scale?
We simply cannot accept it, and Sinn Féin will not accept it.
Finally, we are in the midst of an engagement with Government on this issue. We wrote to the Minister a number of weeks ago seeking a meeting with a Cross party delegation. We wrote again earlier this week. The Minister finally responded to us on Tuesday and confirmed the 2 million grant.
Anyone has been in business, who has an ounce of political acumen, anyone who has ever bought a car, or even anyone who has collected and traded premier league stickers, knows that you don’t accept the first offer during a negotiation.
It would be naive, not to mind say politically wrong-footed if we were to accept the woefully inadequate 2 million euro offer today.
If we pass the budget we will have zero grounds to seek assistance next year, or the year after that. We will have let the architects of this crisis off the hook, and allowed the punishment to be heaped instead on our people.
The government created this mess. They have a responsibility to sort it. The people of waterford cannot be the collateral damage for an immensely short-sighted decisions by Government.
I thank the Chief Executive and the finance team for their work, but we will not be supporting his proposed budget today. I second the proposal to put the ball back in the Government’s court and to reconvene this meeting at a later date.