CLARE County Council has this evening passed a budget for 2023.
The Council’s spending will increase by €13.3 million next year, up to €151.9 million, but an increase in commercial rates has been avoided.
An extra €1.9 million is going to be spent on energy next year, reflecting very high levels of inflation in the market.
The Council’s head of Finance Noeleen Fitzgerald said that things are increasingly challenging and discipline will be required next year. “It was one year that it was very difficult to get a balanced budget, but I feel that the hard work will start now,” she warned.
In his address to the members, Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling said that climate change, inflation, war and the legacy of the pandemic are posing a huge amount of challenges.
He said that the Council has to be responsible in its budgeting. “We must not simply balance figures that are not based on reality.”
Mr Dowling said that for 25 years up to 2016 the Council had run deficits, and ended up with accumulated losses of €9 million, and that the local authority is now determined not to slip backwards, even though he said the position had never been so difficult.
While the budget was comfortably passed there was some criticism, with Councillors PJ Kelly and Cillian Murphy among those who warned that the reduction in spending in areas like community funding and the General Municipal Allocation would have a significant impact.
However, several others said that a rates increase needed to be avoided, and ultimately the budget, which had been worked upon for weeks behind the scenes, was adopted.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.