An €11m loan for council housing repairs in Cork city is on the way and funding for road repairs and homeless services has been increased as city councillors agreed not to increase commercial rates and parking charges.
The decisions were taken during the city council’s 2018 budget meeting last night which will see the council spend €160m next year — up €7.6m on the previous year.
However, more than half of that increase will on on payroll on foot of public service pay restoration deals.
Following one of the quickest budget meetings in recent years, councillors voted 25-3 to adopt the budget, with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Independents supported by Sinn Féin in a budget vote for the first time since the 1920s.
Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald said he was delighted with how council had conducted their business.
The city’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, said the housing budget has increased €1.2m, roads and transportation is up €1.5m, while corporate and external affairs is up €2.4m.
However, she stressed the need for an expansion of the city boundary.
“It is important to state that there is a pressing requirement for an increase in the size of Cork city, which provides daily services to people and business in county areas which are adjacent to it,” she said.
“These businesses and citizens use essential services on a daily basis without any contribution towards the costs of these services. This is a further financial pressure for which Cork City Council receives no recompense.”
The meeting heard the council is in the process of obtaining an €11m loan from the Housing Finance Agency for housing maintenance, which allowed the council to transfer €500,000 from its housing budget to the roads department, to fund footpath and road repairs.
Commercial rates, which represent 42% of the council’s income, were left unchanged after last year’s 1.25% hike — the first increase in eight years.
Ms Doherty said any additional costs arising next year will be funded from some buoyancy in rate and rent income, and additional departmental grants. The council agreed to continue its rates incentive scheme.
Charges for on-street and off-street parking will not be changed and the council pledged to market the pay-by-phone service and to examine further paring promotions.
Just over €730,000 has been set aside for the economic development fund, with €175,000 set aside to support initiatives associated with the city centre strategy.
And a €50,000 package was sanctioned to open Tramore Valley Park, the city’s former landfill which has been transformed into a public park.
Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill said the funding increases represented a brighter future for the city.
Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin said the budget had been prepared despite the best efforts of national government, which expects the council to service substantial property loans and fund civil servant pay restoration.
“And we are short millions from new properties because of delays with the Rates Valuation Office — it’s like the slow boat to China,” he said.
Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould welcomed the 5% increase in the overall budget, especially the €11m loan for housing.
However, Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan and Worker’s Party councillor Ted Tynan said they could not support a budget in the midst of a housing crisis.
Cork Chamber welcomed the adoption of the budget which will not hit businesses with additional costs.
“Already those doing business in Cork contribute 42% of all income for Cork City Council and we want to see this burden rescue as soon as finances allow,” spokesman Thomas McHugh said.
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