Cork County Council set to consider a 3.5% rates hike today to protect services  

The local authority faces a choice between cutting services and raising the fees it charges ratepayers 
Cork County Council set to consider a 3.5% rates hike today to protect services  

Councillors are meeting today at County Hall as Cork County Council seeks to balance its budget. Stock picture: Denis Minihane

Thousands of ratepayers in County Cork could face a 3.5% increase in their bills after a meeting today, at which county councillors will discuss how to stave off cuts to services.

Councillors will gather in County Hall to try and hammer out a budget for 2023. If they don’t find extra revenue, the eight municipal districts in the region face a 14% cut to a number of their services

The proposed cuts would mean less money for repairs to rural roads, many of which are already badly potholed due to recent wet weather.

There will also be fewer litter clean-ups in towns and villages and a reduction in the maintenance of graveyards and cemeteries.

The shortage of outdoor workers in the council is already hampering the delivery of such services.

Councillors have already rejected their officials’ proposals for such cuts, which County Hall bosses previously maintained were necessary to balance their budget.

The local authority is having to finance an extra 4% pay increase to its 2,000-plus staff in 2023 under the terms of the National Pay Agreement.

The council is also being hit with huge rises in the cost of construction materials required for roads and housing projects, and also the additional labour costs for contracted workers involved in these schemes.

Councillors will either have to accept the proposed cuts to services, or hit businesses with rates rises in order to balance the books.

Cork City Council was recently able to balance its books by increasing rates, causing a huge outcry from businesses, which maintain that they are already struggling to make ends meet because of the huge rises in their energy bills and having to pay more for labour costs.

The Irish Examiner understands that a proposal will be put forward to county councillors to increase rates by 3.5% for businesses which are paying more than €2,000 per year. Those under that threshold will not have to pay any additional money.

It is understood that these increases will help in part to bridge the gap required to stave off the cuts to services that had initially been planned.

The Government has stepped in to help defray some other council costs incurred by rising energy prices, which is also sapping local authority resources.

The council’s overall budget for 2023 will be around €400m.

The Irish Examiner also understands that for the first time in its history Cork County Council bosses will announce a three-year programme for capital works, estimated to be worth €1.3bn.

This will involve a schedule of planned infrastructure projects which will include housing developments, road improvements, etc, which will be outlined at the meeting. 

The council debate on the 2023 budget “is likely to be lengthy and challenging” according to a number of sources within the local authority.

"The budget is going to be extremely challenging given the increasing costs the council is facing,” said Seamus McGrath, the Fianna Fáil leader on the council.  
"Earlier budget proposals of a 14% cut in basic services are totally unacceptable. These frontline services need to be fully protected and even improved upon."

Mr McGrath added that “there is no easy way” to balance the books and to do so requires additional revenue to be raised, wherever it comes from.

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