Fine Gael council leader, Cllr John Sheahan
FINE Gael has declared its position on rates in advance of this week’s budget meeting of Limerick City and County Council.
The party is unequivocally ruling out support for any increase in the rate next year or the year after.
And they hope Fianna Fail, their fellow partners in coalition on the council, will travel that road with them.
What they clearly do not want to see is a repetition of the row over the Local Property Tax when agreement was reached only after a protracted period.
Explaining their position, Fine Gael leader in the council Cllr John Sheahan said: “In striking a budget for Limerick City and County Council last year, the commercial rate was increased by 5%. Fine Gael councillors, at that time, gave a commitment that there would be no further increase in the rate for the remaining term of this council which included 2018 and 2019.”
Cllr Sheahan added that certainty over rates was vital to businesses and would lead to further, sustained economic development and growth within the city and county.
“Recent figures show Limerick is outpacing the rest of the country in economic growth and job creation. We want this positive sentiment towards Limerick as a place to do business in to be maintained,” he said.
The commitment to maintaining the rate over three budgets was also tied in with the party’s commitment to maintaining the Local Property Tax at the same level for three years i.e. at 10% above the level set by government.
As a result of the property tax, an additional €1.6m was raised during 2017, Cllr Sheahan pointed out, money which was ring fenced for essential services and spent in each municipal and metropolitan district. The rate increase of 5% contributed an additional €2.4m.
But in September, when the Local Property Tax rate was being decided, Fianna Fail opted instead to propose a 7.5% increase instead of the 10% favoured by Fine Gael.
“What we don’t want is the chief executive Conn Murray coming in and proposing an increase in the rates to make up for the shortfall in property tax,” Cllr Sheahan declared.
It is now up to Fianna Fail to find the shortfall, he said.
“On the day, we were discussing the property tax, Cllr James Collins said there was €1.6m fat in the budget. We want him to find it for us.”
The make-up of the 40-seat council is: Fine Gael 12; Fianna Fail 12; Independents 6; Sinn Fein 5; Labour 3; Solidarity 2.
The budget meeting, which is open to members of the public, will take place in County Hall, Dooradoyle, this Friday, November 17.