COUNCILLORS are to be asked to make spending cuts of around €2m as part of the first budget of Limerick City and County Council.
Expenditure on services across the city and the county are projected to be cut by more than €17m – but €15m of this is because of the transfer of water services from the local authority to Irish Water.
Despite this, councillors are being left with tough choices as council chief executive Conn Murray seeks cuts to the annual budget for roads, environment and agriculture in the book of estimates, which provides recommendations on where money should go ahead of the members’ vote.
But there is good news for the business community, with the proposal to freeze the commercial rate, which currently stands at €59.91 per rate of valuation.
And the projected spend on housing and building is expected to rise by €6.4m, due to the fact the local authority now administers the Housing Assistance Payment, deemed a replacement for Rent Allowance.
However, councillors have raised concerns over a proposal to charge the owners of vacant properties 50% of this rate, with members of the Newcastle West district vowing not to implement it in their own area.
Cllr James Collins, who leads the Fianna Fail group in the metropolitan area, said: “There are vacant properties in the city which large organisations are happy to sit on, rather than let their competitors in. The argument we have had with the director is that you cannot apply the same scheme to two very different groups of traders. You cannot justify charging 50% to the family business because you want to collect from the larger corporation”.
Meanwhile, Cllr Cian Prendiville has expressed fears the local authority budget could see a rise of €87 a year for local authority tenants, and a reduction in the eligibility for the waiver scheme, used by 5,000 people in the city.
In terms of roads, Mr Murray is proposing to cut the spent on the maintenance of roads from €1.9m last year to €1.2m this, while the budget for works on secondary roads also looks likely to be cut from €722,429 to €361,653.
But spend on the maintenance and improvement of local roads, Mr Murray proposes, will go up from €14.2m last year to €14.5m this.
As for car parking, the budget anticipates a rise in spent to manage car parks, from €64,161 to €70,185, but a reduction in the spend on the operation of street parking, from €90,846 last year to €70,000 this year.
Spend on parking enforcement also looks like it could drop from €756,856 last year to €575,740 this year.
It is estimated that income from car parking - including fines - may top €2m in 2015, with Cllr Jerry O’Dea calling for a fresh approach, saying: “The expenditure incurred to generate that money seems to be disproportionate. In general terms, it is costing us €1m to collect €2m.”.
Cuts are being proposed to the litter warden services, as well as litter control initiatives. But spend on the operation of the street cleaning service looks likely to rise, from €2,846,879 last year to €2,882.834 this.