THE finances of Ireland’s largest local authority have been thrown into further turmoil after the Department of the Environment refused it permission to seek a €20 million loan.
Cork County Council members heard yesterday that their worsening financial situation had taken yet another knock, leading to the suspension of all planned projects that were to be funded by development contributions.
The news comes less than a fortnight after the council was forced to suspend more than €5m worth of approved grants to elderly and disabled people for home improvements, after it emerged the Government had not provided sufficient funds to administer the scheme.
County manager Martin Riordan yesterday told councillors he was forced to suspend all planned water, road and amenity projects which hadn’t yet started as a result.
The council had budgeted for a take of about €45m in development charges — which are levied on building projects — this year.
However, the income from them so far this year has plummeted to just €22m.
Mr Riordan said he wanted to spend most of the money he had from development contributions on amenity projects, and had hoped the Department of the Environment would allow him to borrow €20m, which he would spend on enhancing water services.
However, the department refused this request, and the manager said he would have to look at prioritising projects for next year.
A number of councillors said they were very concerned by the move, especially as development contributions were normally spent improving services in villages and towns.
Cllr Andrias Moynihan (FF) said many local communities would lose out.
“We were supposed to tar the road in Cloghduv village with this money,” he said. “The road has been in a very poor state since it was dug up for sewerage works. We were also supposed to build a new car park in Ballyvourney. This is totally unacceptable.”
Labour councillor Martin Coughlan said he’d been informed that a development contribution project lined up for Macroom had been postponed, while FF’s Cllr Deirdre Forde said she was concerned that widening of Clarke’s Hill, Douglas, would also be put on the long finger.
Ms Forde’s proposal that the county manager write to the department seeking approval to look for a smaller loan to tide the local authority over was supported by representatives from other parties.
Council officials will now reapply to the Department of the Environment, although it wasn’t made clear what size of loan they would look for.
Meanwhile, councillors will shortly get a chance to look at their budget and decide what projects they should prioritise under next year’s development contributions scheme.
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