Councillors like to think that they make policy and approve budgets while the role of officials is to implement policy. In the autumn, officials present draft budgets for the coming year for approval and after arguing over increases or decreases, councillors eventually approve the budget and strike an associated rate for business.
However, councillors are primarily concerned with discussing revenue raised by the council. The budget includes notional figures for grants from government or government bodies such as TII or NTA. These tend to be for specific projects which councillors wish to see progress. The difference between the estimated allocation and the actual drawdown is regularised when that year’s expenditure is finalised some 18 months later.
In the past, councillors have had little interest in this stream of funding from government as it was intended for specific schemes. However, in more recent years the DTTaS has allocated an element of Discretionary Funding which amounts to over €80 million nationally in 2019. Not all counties receive a Discretionary Grant. The Dublin Local Authorities do not receive anything. Kildare County Council’s portion amounts to €2.5 million – not a fortune by today’s standards but still a sizeable amount. Councillors frequently receive the response that no funding is available for a particular project. The question is who decides on its use – the elected councillors or officials? And, equally important, what proportion should be allocated to walking and cycling?