Council to cut services rather than hit public

Cork County Council will prune its own services next year rather than raise money from increased charges to businesses and householders.

County manager Martin Riordan said the public would find it difficult to pay increased charges so sought to reduce expenditure across the board, bar in vital services, to balance the council’s budget for 2013.

The council’s expenditure for next year will be €286m, down from €360m in 2008.

For a sixth consecutive year, there will be no increase in commercial rates.

The council’s head of finance, Ger Power, forecast that income from rates next year will drop €1m to €96.2m. Rates represent over 30% of the council’s income.

The council will retain its Economic Development Fund, which is funded through 1% of the rates take. The fund is used to help fledgling businesses.

Significant savings have been made on payroll costs. Staff numbers have been cut by 784 (22.6%) since 2008. The council will pay out €286m on payroll and pensions next year, down from €360.8m in 2008.

Mr Riordan said property taxes generated in the county should be retained in Cork to fund council services.

The council will be liable for an estimated €1m of the tax for its local authority houses when it is introduced next year. Mr Power said the council may have to pass the tax on to tenants in 2014, possibly through an increase in rents.

“We’re in a healthy financial position because we won’t spend what we haven’t got,” Mr Power told councillors at their annual budget meeting in County Hall yesterday.

Mr Riordan said despite spending significant money on improving water schemes, the council would not increase water charges to non-domestic users next year.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) described the budget “as a good effort” despite scarce resources.

Cllr Alan Coleman (FF) criticised the decision by the Department of the Environment to reduce its grant to the council to €5m — down from €6.2m — for housing adaptation for the elderly and disabled.

Mr Coleman called for a 1% reduction in rates.

Cllr Paula Desmond (Lab) described the proposal as “a cynical exercise” designed solely to grab a headline.

Councillors spent several hours discussing the budget before voting 29 to 15 to accept it.


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