Waterford Council face ‘difficulties’ with budget

Waterford Council face ‘difficulties’ with budget

Waterford Council officials are seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Environment Minister Eoghan Murphy and Finance Minister Pascal Donoghue after commercial rates alterations measures introduced by the government left the local authority with an estimated €3.3m revenue shortfall.

The shortage has occurred after the government re-introduced commercial rates on Irish Water under the 2017 Water Services Act.

Since 2014 Irish Water had been exempt from commercial rates, with a compensation package instead allocated to local authorities.

Under this package Waterford Council received €4m in annual compensation.

The government’s decision to redefine Irish Water as a rated entity brings the utility company’s assets worth to just €1.12m in Waterford.

The shortfall has sent shockwaves through the council at a time when discussions for its 2020 budget are ongoing.

Waterford Council CEO Michael Walsh told a special sitting of councillors that while other counties had also been adversely affected by the rates re-designation at around 4%, Waterford had been hit by a 13% deficit.

He said the council was “now confronted with extreme difficulties in passing a budget”.

In the scenario of failure to agree a budget the Environment Minister could remove the council from the budget process and replace it with an administrator.

Mr Walsh has advised councillors that if a budget was to be agreed as things stand, it would entail an increase in commercial rates and rents, along with cuts to services such as roads, festivals and community grants.

The CEO said he had been in contact with Department of Local Government officials and that there was “goodwill to help in some form”

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