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No to commercial rates cut

CLARE County Council is budgeting for a €500,000 deficit at the end of this year as a result of additional expenditure on essential works due to adverse weather conditions, unexpected costs relating to Traveller accommodation and increased levels of vacant properties.

That’s the projection from county manager, Tom Coughlan, despite the county council’s ongoing efforts to reduce expenditure and increase income throughout the year.
Commercial rates are expected to remain the same for 2012 following councillors’ deliberations on the annual Budget Estimates, which are scheduled to start next Tuesday.
Because the Government’s €100 household charge will be paid into the Local Government Fund and in light of the continuing reduction in local government funding and income from local services, Mr Coughlan stated it has not been possible to provide for a decrease in commercial rates in the draft budget.
“It is proposed to meet the ongoing reductions in funding through achieving efficiencies, as in previous years, and consequently an increase in the level of commercial rates is not provided for. The issue of a reduction in rates has been considered at a number of council meetings in 2011 and the consequence of such a reduction have been made clear to councillors at those meetings.
“As I stated in the 2011 Budget Report, the council is acutely aware of the financial difficulties its rate payers are experiencing and are committed to adopting a practical approach in terms of facilitating rate payers.
“I must emphasise if the council doesn’t receive the income, which is identified in this draft budget, the maintenance of the levels of services planned in 2012 would be impacted,” he stated.
The Department of Environment has advised the council that the Local Government Fund allocation for 2012 is €10.18 million. This is a reduction of 5.45% on the net Local Government Fund, making a cumulative reduction of 38% on 2009.
While the national levels of reduction have not yet been published, Mr Coughlan understands that, as in 2011, the council has not suffered the most severe reductions on a national comparative basis in the Local Government Fund.
Since 2005, the council has received additional local government funding for water services. However, the department has advised this extra allocation will not continue at the 2011 level and provision has been made in the draft budget for a reduction of €100,000 in this allocation.
The total payroll costs for 2012 represents a reduction of €8 million, down 17.8% from €44.8m in 2009 to €36.8m in 2012.
The council’s payroll Revenue account budget for 2012 provides for a saving of €900,000 on the 2011 figure. Due to the reducing capital programme, Mr Coughlan explained the capacity to absorb payroll in the capital account is reducing by €300,000 and the impact of this reduced capacity is reflected in the Revenue account payroll budget.
At the end of next February, the projected number of staff will be 810 compared to a figure of 1,002 in 2006. It is anticipated that further reductions in staffing levels will occur in 2012.
“As a consequence of the reduction in staff available to deliver the services to council customers, it is imperative that available staff be engaged in productive activity.
“The draft budget provides for the achievement of efficiencies through improved procurement measures, the further implementation of shared services, internal and external, improvements in information technology services and restructuring of the organisation.
“The ongoing reduction in staffing levels has resulted in a situation where staff continue to deliver services even though the number of staff has severely reduced,” he said.


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