€795m ‘lost’ to economy from council budget

A colossal €795m has reportedly been lost to the Cork economy in just four years due to the dwindling spending power of its largest local authority.

According to an internal Cork County Council report, capital expenditure has dropped consistently from the heady days of the Celtic Tiger.

In 2008, the council was able to spend €464m on capital projects such as building roads, water and sewerage treatment plants along with houses.

If that figure had been maintained, the local authority would have pumped €1.865bn into the local economy.

But, due to declining funding, it instead spent €1.061bn, meaning €759m was removed from circulation.

Last year, the local authority’s spend was €119m but that is likely to drop again, this year, as the Government continues to tighten the nation’s belt.

Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Tim Lombard said such a reduction in spending power must have had “profound repercussions” for employment in the region.

“Taking that much money out of the local economy must have hit all sectors of society as we are probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, spending entities in the county,” Mr Lombard said.

“The figures are startling. From a high of €464m in 2008, capital expenditure dropped to €303m the following year and then dipped to €175m in 2010. It plummeted significantly again last year.”

He said the reductions were having a major effect on the quality of life of many people.

“The projects we were able to fund gave work to the smallest of tradesmen, excavation contractors and consultants. It was right across the board,” the mayor said.

“Council-funded large infrastructure projects have now all but stopped and there has been a significant impact on the number of houses we have been able to build in recent years. From now on, the council isn’t planning to build any more social or affordable houses,” he added.

The Fine Gael councillor said he was particularly concerned about large infrastructure projects which had been put on hold such as the €80m Lower Harbour sewerage scheme which was an investment which would attract further industry to the region.

He also stated that the €800m planed motorway linking Cork and Limerick had been mothballed and this was also vital for economic development.

However, despite the current economic climate the council has received some positive news.

The internal report stated the local authority collected rates totalling €95.7m last year, €2.4m more than its projected target.

The internal report is due to be discussed by councillors on May 14.


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