SOUTHSIDE councillor Jim Long has become the first member of Limerick City Council to criticise the local authority budget.
Despite manager Conn Murray proposing a rates reduction of 5% which would bring the city’s charge for businesses down to just over 70c per rate of valuation, Cllr Long believes a proposed rise in water charges - by 3.8% - will offset this.
He also believes it discriminates against businesses which do not use water on a regular basis.
“It is very welcome to see the commercial rate fall by 5%. But equally, with 3.8% of a water increase there, it is not balanced,” Cllr Long said, “It does not do justice to all the commercial retail businesses. Not all of them use water. Hotels, restaurants and pubs use considerably more water than a clothes shop, for example.”
Instead, Cllr Long said the manager should have recommended a 3% rates cut for business, and a freeze in the water rate.
Cllr Long felt that the news that the manager is proposing the city’s largest commercial rate cut in history has overshadowed a tough overall budget, with €3m of savings in front-line services needing to be found.
“Having looked at the book, the manager is not proposing a 5% decrease because we are doing very well. He got a special grant from the government. If you look at the rest of the budget, there are other areas we need to address,” he said, saying he will not adopt the budget when councillors meet on Wednesday, if changes are not made.
However, Cllr Kevin Kiely said: “Hopefully it will send out the right message that Limerick is open for business. We want people to get back into town, and we hope to attract new shops in.”
City Councillors are to sit down to discuss the budget next Wednesday, at 3pm.