The recent decision by Council to finance the Moat refurbishment plan in full Is fiscally irresponsible.
That was what I said after the Council voted to spend an additional £50,000 of ratepayers money on the Moat project – money that could well have been secured as a grant from the Department for Communities.
The Town Steering Committee has been working on this exciting project to return the iconic Moat building and environs into a usable and attractive educational and tourist facility for the past three years.
We agreed an ambitious plan to not only re-open the building to the public but include the only Camera Obscura in Ireland and we tasked to seek the financing to underwrite the project.
After a lot of effort– which included successfully convincing the National Lottery Fund to extend their funding an additional 18 months specifically to enable Council to deliver the scheme – a report was brought to Council.
The Report outlined the Council commitment of £122,000 to the scheme. When the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £104,000 was added, it would allow Council to complete the full restoration of the Moat by September 2020.
The final part of the project – the completion of public realm works and the insertion of the Camera Obscura – would be financed by a grant from the Department for Communities. However, they are unable to make more than a verbal commitment until they have their budgets for the coming year.
It beggars belief that the Councillors – led by Councillors Tom Smith and Peter Martin – ignored the sensible recommendation of officers and the Outline Business Case to begin the work and continue negotiations with the Department to secure the grant, and instead decide that ratepayers should fork out the additional £50,000!
This unforgivable waste of ratepayers money will create unnecessary financial pressure on the Council just at the time when discussions are beginning to set the rate for next year.