MANY important council services may have to be cut after Environment Minister Phil Hogan slashed Limerick’s local authority budgets by almost €3m.
There has been criticism of the government from councillors in the city and county after the Department of the Environment advised Limerick’s City and County Councils it will cut its third-quarter grant by €1.8m and €812,392 respectively - unless it gets more people to pay the household charge.
Officials at City Hall and County Hall are now being forced to try to find the savings and balance their budgets with the cuts to hit home almost immediately.
Funding could be reinstated in part if more people pay the household charge. But the news has left members angry, because the household charge was designed to supplement any capital funding.
Instead, it appears to be returning to Dublin.
There are fears that street lights will remain unfixed, streets will not be cleaned at weekends, while grants for the elderly will be cut.
With the reduction needing to be made almost immediately, Fianna Fail city councillor Kieran O’Hanlon has called for an immediate meeting, saying that deciding where the cuts will come is “one of the biggest decisions” the council will have to make.
Councillor John Gilligan said Mr Hogan had effectively “declared war” on the local authorities.
And Fine Gael’s county councillor Richard Butler said the move is “a waste of time and procedure”.
Financial director at City Hall Pat Murnane confirmed a review is ongoing, but it is too early to say what, if any, cuts will be made.
In a strongly worded statement, Cllr Gilligan said: “The Minister is in effect blackmailing us as a local council to become extortionists and to force our constituents to pay for the misdeeds of others. Long years of careful planning where we succeeded in wiping out an overdraft of €9m and reducing the rates has now gone out of the window. We are now to be reduced to a bunch of tax gatherers, terrorising our citizens to pay.”
Cllr O’Hanlon said members need to share the pain of the cuts.
He said the mayoral salary should be cut, along a variety of committee chairmanship roles.
The City East councillor is furious members were not consulted on the matter.
Mr Murnane said: “If it is deemed necessary, the City Manager will bring a report in front of Limerick City Council informing members of any proposed change of services to the public.”