Cutbacks on the cards in Limerick as Phil Hogan ‘punishes’ councils over household charge collection

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

A SENIOR city official has expressed his “disappointment” at the cuts in exchequer funding to local authorities arising from non-compliance with the €100 household charge.

A SENIOR city official has expressed his “disappointment” at the cuts in exchequer funding to local authorities arising from non-compliance with the €100 household charge.

Service cuts by the end of the year now look inevitable as director of service Pat Dowling confirmed officials at City Hall had started talks “to try and review budgets by year end”.

The household charge had been justified by Minister Phil Hogan as an effort to put local authority finances on a more stable footing. It now looks like critics who predicted the money would simply be deducted from the Local Government Fund (LGF) have been proven right.

The Department of the Environment wrote to both Limerick City and County Councils last week advising them of reductions of over 10 per cent in the allocation granted in January. Both Limerick County and City Councils had already seen their LGF funding reduced, by nine per cent and three per cent respectively, compared to 2011.

Revised payments were based on the overall level of funds available in the LGF; “the level of household charge compliance achieved to date”; and “the position of individual local authorities in terms of scale and financial resilience”, the department circular to councils advised.

At 59 per cent compliance with the household charge in Limerick City, the council has seen its annual funding reduced by over €800,000. The reduction at Limerick County Council amounts to €1.8 million.

“Obviously we are disappointed. We have been in touch with our colleagues at Limerick County Council and it appears there is now a requirement to find €2.6 million by year end in Limerick, which is a significant amount and represents a significant challenge,” said Mr Dowling.

While Limerick was awaiting the installation of Conn Murray as the new city and county manager in August, discussions had already begun in relation to a review of budgets, Mr Dowling said.

“We have no choice in the matter and will have to make amendments accordingly,” he said.

Fianna Fail’s Deputy Niall Collins, meanwhile, accused Minister Hogan of “punishing Limerick County Council and local authorities around the country for the chaos he created over the collection of the household charge”.

And Sean Griffin, whose Sinn Fein party has been urging householders to boycott the charge, said the Department’s cuts were “nothing short of blackmail” and predicted street cleaning, grass cutting and the upkeep of public parks would be among the first areas where the axe would fall.