Councillors in south Dublin have agreed to forego €38,000 in annual expenses for a pilot
self-spend scheme for
South Dublin County Council is the first in the country to adopt the participatory budgeting initiative, and the Traveller committee will decide how the money is spent.
The council will also double its spend on housing this year, allocating €2.6 million to help tackle the homelessness crisis.
The move was decided at SDCC’s €225m budget meeting. Proposer Cllr Mark Ward (SF) welcomed colleagues’ support for the democratic process.
He said: “This will enable Travellers to work with local government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives.”
Doreen Carpenter, manager of Clondalkin Travellers Development Project, told The Gazette: “We welcome the money and it will be used for the betterment of the travelling community.
“Most of it will be to towards our citizenship programme, to promote empowerment, participation and inclusion.”
The funding was secured from councillors’ projected expenses budget – including travel expenses and conferences abroad – and the motion was supported by Sinn Fein and Alliance members.
Cllr Ward, a member of the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee, said: “It represents a step towards empowering Travellers and giving them a sense of ownership within their community.
“I have engaged with Travellers from the development programmes and also directly on sites. There is a sense of apathy and detachment amongst ordinary Travellers towards local government.
“This scheme will encourage them to engage with local government, and it’s the first of its kind in the country. It will increase social justice by providing a platform for Travellers to have a voice in decision-making processes.”
The budget was passed by a large majority of 29 votes to 6, with the homeless budget doubled to €2.6million, the provision of school meals for 23 schools, and maintaining the 15% reduction in the Local Property Tax also agreed.
In total, spending on housing will increase by €4.5 million, to €66.2 million, with a capital spend of €600,000 towards a homeless hostel and a women’s refuge.
A €100,000 fund for a pilot Traveller caravan loan scheme was also approved, along with more money for home improvements, path maintenance and tree pruning, and plans to recruit 50 new frontline staff.
Sinn Fein housing spokesman Deputy Eoin O Broin gave the funding increase a broad welcome, but added: “We do need much more than what’s there for housing.”