Labour Party members on Cork City Council have vowed to reject any rent hike proposals in the council’s December budget.
The party announced its position yesterday, casting into chaos the pact arrangement between Fine Gael, Labour, and Fianna Fáil which is required to pass the annual budget.
With Fianna Fáil expected to vote against the budget as it did last year, Labour’s objections leaves Fine Gael isolated.
The Labour stance also ups the pressure on city management who will have to find other ways of balancing the books before the Dec 16 meeting.
At pre-budget briefings last week, city manager Tim Lucey told councillors he and his senior management team are trying to find ways of bridging an expected €4m shortfall.
They must find €400,000 to meet the council’s local property tax bill on its housing stock for this year, and another €800,000 to cover the tax bill for next year.
The council is also facing a €720,000 interest payment on loan charges next year relating to the purchase of land during the boom.
Coupled with reduced government funding and with regular income streams under pressure, the task of balancing the books has never been more difficult.
The possibility of increasing the rents of local authority tenants by to up €100 a year to help meet the council’s local property tax liability was among several options on the table.
Following a special meeting of the party’s councillors on Tuesday night, Labour Cllr Michael O’Connell said it has now written to Mr Lucey, making it clear that any attempt to increase rents for local authority tenants will not have the support of the Labour Party.
“We would urge the manager to find alternative ways to balance the budget,” he said.
Labour colleague Denis O’Flynn said his party is determined not to vote for rent hikes. “We are not going to inflict more punishment on tenants. We will have to find the savings elsewhere,” he said.
“People are struggling and have suffered enough. If we have to walk on budget night, then we’ll walk.”
Councillors are meeting with senior city officials again this week for more briefings before the budget is presented for a vote on Dec 16.
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