Discussion continue in Lifford on budget 2010

As what looks set to be a protracted budget discussion in Lifford continues, County Manager Michael Mc Loone has told Donegal County Council that this year is different, and it's well understood that new ways must be found in which to do business.

He said changes have already being made, and the council today has been acting like the board of directors of a business.

He said new systems are needed to convert resources to results.

In a break from the previous norm, each Director of Services outlined how their departments were staffed, and will spend the money they have been allocated.

Mr Mc Loone said that over the coming year, Donegal County Council can take the lead in showing how the national aim of Better Local Government can be delivered. Over the next six months, flesh will be placed on the aspirations outlined at the meeting, but the challenge today is to decide on whether the budget will be adopted for 2010. He recommended adoption of the budget with no rate increase, but said options are available to achieve a 3% decrease.

In his initial reaction, Fianna Fail whip Ciaran Brogan welcomed the new budgetary model, and challenged Fine Gael to provide a detailed outline of how it would secure the 8.5% increase it is seeking.

Fine Gael Whip Terence Slowey said with deflation in the economy, the council's expenditure falling and a fall in the workforfce of almost 300, keeping the rate unchanged would mean an increase in the proportional contribution of the business community, and that is not acceptable. He pledged to present details of his party's rate cut proposals at a series of meeting which is currently underway.

Sinn Fein Whip Padraig Mac Lochlainn acknowledged this is the most difficult budget ever, and he and his party will welcome any way of achieving cuts. Remarkable that 3% may be achievable, if Fine Gael has ways of getting an 8.5% cut, he'll be open to it, but needs to see detailed proposals.

He says Sinn Fein proposing cuts in conference expenses of just over 100,000, and a cut in the overseas travel budget of 20,000 euro, along with a number of other measures.