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Covid impact on Council budget laid bare

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REVEUNE STREAM DECIMATED Peter Duggan, Interim Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, had a stark warning for councillors ahead of the upcoming AGM of the council. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Councillors also call for financial support to safeguard Knock Airport

Anton McNulty
Castlebar

THE impact Covid-19 has had on the coffers of Mayo County Council has been spelt out to councillors who were informed that balancing the upcoming annual budget will be the most difficult they have ever faced.
The stark warning was outlined to the elected representatives at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, where increased measures were introduced, including the absence of water for councillors, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the meeting.
The councillors agreed to hold the annual Budget meeting on November 23, with a second day on November 25 lined up in case the budget is not agreed on the first day. A proposal by Cllr Al McDonnell to hold a workshop to iron through issues before the budget meeting was also agreed in order to expedite the process.
In agreeing to hold the workshop, acting-Chief Executive Peter Duggan also outlined that the councillors are obliged to adopt a balanced budget and it was up to them to find a way to do it.
“It will probably be the most difficult budget that this local authority has ever faced in light of the current situation we find ourselves in,” he warned.
“It is not going to be easy. You don’t need me to tell you the affect the pandemic is having on this authority. The local levels of income streams are down significantly and we have to deliver the services that we are obliged to deliver. We are caught in a bind as those services cost but we have to produce a balanced budget.”
There was calls by Cllr Michael Loftus for a united front from all councillors in adopting the budget and not to have one side going against the other like in previous years. Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara said there should be no cuts looked at until the central government are asked for help first.
“We should be looking to the Government to plug whatever holes we have to plug in Mayo and not wondering how we will cut and make the budget work. There is no question the deficit will be astronomical but we should be going to central government for help and a bail-out if needed,” he said.

Airport concerns
Meanwhile, councillors also called for a significant package be provided by the Government in providing financial support to Ireland West Airport Knock to ensure its future is secured.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the airport sustaining €4 million in losses in 2020 with revenues to decline by over €11 million. A report issued to councillors showed that passenger numbers collapsed by 90 percent over the summer and overall 2020 faced a reduction of 78 percent in passengers compared to 2019.
Mayo County Council is one of seven local authorities with a stake in the airport and it’s Cathaoirleach, Cllr Richard Finn, proposed that the Government provide urgent support to address the financial losses, implement the recommendations of the Aviation Taskforce Report and adapt the European Commission’s travel measures that are in use across Europe. His proposals were all supported by his fellow councillors.
Despite the concerns over the financial loss imposed on the airport, Cllr John Cribbin said the airport’s CEO, Joe Gilmore had met with the Minister for Transport and he was confident Knock will get the rescue package it deserves.