City council has 'no idea' how directly elected mayor role could be financed

City council has 'no idea' how directly elected mayor role could be financed
The City Hall, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

CITY Hall’s head of finance has admitted the local authority has “no idea” how it will pay for the salary of a directly elected mayor as councillors fear budget cuts to services to fund the estimated €450,000-a-year role.

The city will decide whether to fundamentally change the role of the Lord Mayor to that of a directly elected mayor with executive powers as part of next month’s local and European elections.

Government proposals estimate the costs of a directly elected mayor at €314,000 per year with a special advisor, a programme officer, a driver and allowances built into the office.

However, councillors believe extra staff will be needed, pushing the cost closer to half a million a year. The roles will not be funded by Central Government and will have to be met through the city council’s annual budget.

Cork City Council head of finance John Hallahan said: “It is significant money, certainly. Currently, we don’t have an income stream to cover that.

“We will have to wait and see what income streams and what expenditure we have during the budget process but at the moment I couldn't tell you where that money will come from - I don’t have any idea,” he added.

Former Lord Mayor Terry Shannon said the council cannot find the money to fix footpaths or resurface roads and the cost of a directly elected mayor will likely lead to further cuts.

“This is an outrageous cost of €450,000 - roughly about two and a quarter million in the lifetime of the next council term,” he said.

“I understand no money is coming from Central Government for the new post and not only is there no money, but there are also no extra powers.

“We have a deficit in terms of trying to maintain the public realm yet we are being asked that we support a Mickey Mouse office. That’s what this is. It will politicise an office that has been above politics for nigh on 100 years.

“It will cost €450,000 to €500,000. The mayor will have two advisors at €65,000 each and there will have to be staff. This will cost half a million, there is no doubt,” he added.

Mr Shannon also questioned why Dublin is being “treated differently” by being allowed a citizens assembly before it undertakes a vote on a directly elected mayor and stated he believes the role, under the current proposals, will bring no extra devolved powers to the city.

Councillor Fiona Ryan believes the cost of the role is “scandalous”.

“People are not armed with the information that they need to make a decision. This is the most transformative thing that this local authority has seen since the boundary change. These are two huge changes coming at once and we need to get it right. I am extremely concerned with the enormous wages associated with this role. It’s nothing short of scandalous,” she added.

Mick Nugent (SF) has called for City Hall to facilitate a public debate on the issue - with arguments from people for and against the proposals - on the mayor’s position.

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