LIMERICK’S city councillors made history this Wednesday night by voting through the largest commercial rate cut in the history of the state.
City manager Conn Murray proposed the charge for businesses be reduced to 71c per rate of valuation, a cut of 5%.
Late on Wednesday night, councillors voted the budget through for 2013, which contains €3m of spending cuts.
While many members praised the decision to cut the rate, a number of members expressed concern over the €600,000 reduction in spend on housing projects.
Northside Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan said the rate should instead be cut by 3% and the housing spend increased.
However, this was rejected, and the Budget was passed 16-0, with Cllr Quinlivan abstaining. Housing director Oliver O’Loughlin is to look at adjusting the housing budget to increase spend in maintenance.
Mr Murray said: “The decision by Limerick City Councillors to reduce the Commercial Rate by this significant amount is to be commended. It sends a clear signal that Limerick City Council is supporting local businesses and is creating an environment for further economic development”.
He added the main priorities are to support those who need housing, as well as sustaining a competitive environment for business.
He confirmed there would be a spend of some €36m on regeneration, as well as €80,000 on community schemes.
Spend on home assistance allocations were expected to rise to €400,000, while the adaptation grant spend is set to be €2m.
The Coonagh to Knockalisheen Road, which will open up Moyross, is set to be given a €20m boost.
He said the rate cut has been made possible mainly due to the decrease in staff numbers at City Hall - down 23% since 2008.
Chairman of the economic committee, Cllr Diarmuid Scully said the budget was “the best in my time on the council. We reduced the rate for the first time seven years ago, and we got an increase in income – this will have the same effect. We need to be on the crest of the upturn, and this estimate is the best way to do that.”
Labour’s council leader Orla McLoughlin described this year’s budget as a “sheer miracle”.
“We have achieved what we always felt was unavailable. I am delighted.”
Cllr Jim Long jokingly said: “It is the first time I took a book to bed with me for 40 years. My wife appreciated what I did for her that night!”
He compared the book to the fantasy adventure Jumanji.
“I was scared what was going to jump out of the book,” he said.
Cllr Joe Leddin praised the Croke Park agreement, which he feels brought about the proposed rate reduction.
Fianna Fail’s Kieran O’Hanlon pointed out this measure was proposed by his government, and not supported by Labour.
Cllr Quinlivan admitted concern at the housing situation.
“Many people are living in sub-standard accommodation. We are in danger of becoming slum tenants. I think the rate cut should be less, and more should go in housing maintenance,” he said.
Independent councillor John Gilligan rejected the triumphant attitude of colleagues, saying: “It will take 30 years to get back to where we were.”